Energy “transition” is a buzzword used by many who associate it with the beginning of the end of natural gas to power our communities.
For the past two decades, my firm has studied public perceptions related to energy issues using both quantitative and qualitative research across the United States. Over this time, support for the continued use of natural gas has not waned, even as support for strong environmental protections and active steps to address climate change have increased.
That’s because people want energy solutions that provide them with a choice. They don’t want to magnify the economic impacts of inflation, and they don’t want to depend on our foreign adversaries for affordable energy. Yet, this pragmatic sentiment has not been reflected at the policy level, where discussions tend to center around how to eliminate the use of all fossil fuels, including natural gas. So how can the natural gas industry remedy this substantial disconnect between public sentiment and public policy?
The answer is that the industry must find and engage natural gas supporters to express their preferences publicly, regularly and articulately. However, the industry cannot expect the public to get involved without an education-based campaign about the compelling environmental success story of natural gas.
To accomplish this, natural gas companies must capture the right tone and message by deeply understanding their audience’s opinions and motivations. For example, if you know that your customers want reliability, affordability and choice while also harboring concerns about climate change, this should inform an education campaign that speaks directly to these things.
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Communications with the public must also be consistent, transparent and fact-based in order to gain trust and credibility. In the natural gas industry specifically, companies must tell a compelling story that addresses deep-seated concerns about climate change, alongside concerns about energy costs. A recent poll my firm conducted of 2,000 American adults found that 60% of people were personally concerned with climate change. At the same time, 81% were also concerned with the rising cost of energy, with well over half of the cost-conscious people saying they were “very concerned.”
Natural gas companies should focus on answering these concerns. Companies need to educate the public that natural gas continues to offer abundant, cost-effective energy while achieving real and significant greenhouse gas reductions. For example, the positive impact of the Shale Revolution that began nearly 20 years ago is a success story that’s not widely known, but it should be. The greatly increased access to domestic natural gas reserves has transformed America’s energy landscape for the better, reducing GHG emissions, improving air quality, reducing foreign dependence and providing families and businesses with reliable, affordable energy.