Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Environmental Initiatives Struggle - It's Not 2014

The ballot initiatives of the environmental movement are struggling to attract media, activists and funders. The politics of 2016 is simply not as hospitable for the anti-fracking/anti-gas and oil message as it was in 2016.

A lot has changed, and the anti-frackers haven’t changed their basic approach.

1.     Gas and oil development is simply not the threat it was in 2014. The mega expansion phase collapsed with prices. Today, gas and oil is contracting with lower rig counts and fewer employees.

2.     In 2014, the anti-gas and oil crowd had a number of Front Range communities that joined the movement, not out of an environmental ideology, but due to a desire to keep the development out of their cities (NIMBY). Partially, that threat has receded, and importantly, their strategy of local bans was voided by the Colorado Supreme Court. The communities are no longer providing resources or rhetoric to back the initiative effort.

3.     Although the environmentalist have tried to broaden their appeal by incorporating local government and environmental quality into their anti-fracking and anti-gas and oil initiatives, the gas and oil industry got organized and has spent millions in television advertising and public relations to counter the effort. Public affairs weekend programs are flooded with the benefits and positive aspects of gas and oil development. Industry spokespersons rapidly counter each environmental initiative and statements.

4.     The environmental movement has had victories. The Keystone Pipeline will not be built during the lifetime of this administration. But, its fall also removed at least one issue that fueled the movement.

5.     A key missing aspect of the movement is the absence of a money source. Jared Polis, who provided millions in 2014 to get anti-fracking measures to the ballot, has shifted his emphasis to become a part of the House leadership. It was made very clear to Polis in 2014 that sponsoring party dividing anti-gas and oil ballot initiatives in Colorado was not welcome. In addition, many of his communities in Larimer County are simply not energized about the issue in 2016.

6.     Finally, much of what passes today for the environmental movement has lost currency with the public. The percentage of the public calling themselves environmentalists has declined from 78 percent in 1991 at the beginning of Earth Day to 42 percent today.

Gallup, which reported the data, points to the increasing partisan division in the term. Environmentalism became much more partisan, especially around climate change. Only 27 percent of Republicans consider themselves environmentalists. However, even the larger proportion of Democrats (56%) is still way down from the 78 percent who held the position in 1991.

7.     Also, Gallup points out that the public has adopted many environmental positions, such as recycling, industry uses more solar and natural gas, and major problems of a few decades ago, such as air pollution, have seen major progress.

The anti-fracking amendments may make the ballot, but, as of now, it will not be the cause celeb it was in 2014.

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