In 2016, the pipeline industry landscape in America is experiencing quite a dichotomy. On one hand, oil and gas production is at an all-time high, and we are well positioned to become an energy independent nation if we build the necessary pipeline infrastructure to transport it. On the other, pipeline projects are met with a level of distrust and protest never seen in our country’s history. Just look at Dakota Access: The project has been approved and yet every day it seems there is a new story about a protest concerning the project. In fact, construction has already been halted in North Dakota and Iowa due to such protests. However, it’s not the only pipeline project dealing with lawsuits and protests. Sabal Trail, Constitution, PennEast, etc., you name it, they are suffering from the same legal issues too.
Though it’s tempting, and even understandable, for pipeline companies to lash out against protesters, that’s not the smart play here. Led by millennials that are environmentally conscious and not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, coupled with a lack of harsh punishment for their actions and media outlets that are all too willing to give them the attention and martyr status they crave, the reality is pipeline protests are here to stay and fighting fire with fire will only make things worse.
With that in mind, the question becomes, how does the pipeline industry in America go about changing the perspective of a protester? In my opinion, it starts and ends with education, and showing protesters that pipeline companies acknowledge and care about their concerns.
While it’s true that some protesters won’t believe whatever comes out of a pipeline company’s mouth, we have to embark on a grassroots movement to prove to people across America that pipelines are safe, and will not negatively impact their daily lives. Perhaps that’s organizations like INGAA, AGA, API, AOPL, etc. setting up camp where pipelines are proposed to be built and taking the time to answer all questions open and honestly? Perhaps it’s sharing the stories of pipeliners across America and how their livelihood depends on these projects, and what impact construction delays have on them and their loved ones?
Perhaps it’s showing people how oil and natural gas help make products we use everyday, such as computers, smartphones and tablets? Perhaps it’s explaining how natural gas helps heat their homes, and how a greater natural gas supply will reduce their monthly utility bills? Perhaps pipeline companies need to make it a point to advertise with media outlets across the country to get the message out that pipelines are safe, environmentally friendly, and positively impact the day-to-day life of every American?
No matter the method, the bottom line is: While it won’t be easy to change the way all Americans view pipelines, we have to do whatever it takes to try. The future of the industry depends on it.