Beer Fight — A New Response to Fracking

The debate over fracking operations — the process of pumping chemicals into the ground in order to shatter rock beds to release fossil fuels — is in full force. The oil and gas industry are spending millions on a PR campaign to convince Americans that fracking is safe. The commercials feature pleasant, soft-spoken actors explaining that the industry can safely extract energy from the ground. On the other side of the debate, environmentalists and a number of local communities near fracking operations explain that the chemicals used in the procedure infect ground water and even fears of increased earthquakes. It’s a little harder to get attention when you have a few billion dollars less to advertise.

But now environmental activists in New York have figured out the best rhetorical angle to reach Joe and Jane Six-Pack. They are calling upon opposition to fracking to “Save Our Beer.” Beer is made with water and New York brewers rely on a pristine water supply to produce high-quality beer. One of the long-standing rhetorical problems of the environmental movement is the inherent local quality of the harms. It is difficult to create a link to an audience 100s or 1000s of miles from the contaminated water, while everyone recognizes benefits from energy production. By linking fracking with a product enjoyed far beyond the communities hit by the practice, the activists can reach out to a broader audience.

The Environmental Advocates of New York, the Manhattan Young Democrats, and the New York Water Rangers are holding an event at Brooklyn Brewery to raise money to fight the oil and gas industry’s attack on New York water and, by extension, beer.

It’s rare to see representatives of the beer industry on the short end of an advertising budget, but if this concept reaches the macro-brewers in America the oil and gas industry may meet their PR machine match.

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