An ex-U.S. navy intelligence officer who now runs a risk analysis and “population-centric engagement” company is urging pipeline companies to quash “professional protesters” by adopting advanced communications techniques.
“Up against professional protestors that have proven their ability to stop a project in its tracks, the [fossil-based] energy industry is finding that it now must be armed with modern-day tools to effectively quash social unrest,” writes industry publication Rigzone.
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“Companies can avoid these conflicts if they get in front of them, but many don’t want to make the investment up front,” said ENODO Global President Jim Sisco. “Mentally, historically, philosophically—the mindset has always been to go ahead with the project and deal with the fallout if it happens, but hopefully it does not.” But “hope is a poor planning tool.”
Sisco urges pipeliners to share project information and engage with the public proactively—though (not unlike certain Canadian regulatory agencies) he sees that as the ticket to ensuring a project does proceed, not to determining whether or how it should.
“Many citizens protest because they lack basic information about a project,” Rigzone states, and earlier communication “enables companies to address public concerns, control misinformation, and mitigate protests before they get out of hand.” Based on his previous job helping U.S. Special Forces win hearts and minds with communities in Afghanistan, Sisco contended that protests are driven by fear and a lack of knowledge.
“Companies do not have strategic communication plans that effectively articulate project goals and objectives and how they are going to accomplish them,” he told Rigzone. “If they did, and messaged them on social media, it would counter or drown out the activists.”
[Note to Jim Sisco: If you’re looking for knowledge, try out the avalanche of community-driven research on everything from sea level rise to severe weather, from pipeline spills to abandoned tailings ponds that we sort through for every edition of The Energy Mix. Subscriptions are free! – Ed.]