Sunday, September 28, 2008

Citizen - Call Your Natural Gas Legislature

Back in August, I wrote about Mr. Pickens’s energy plan, which has itself been accompanied by a slick advertising campaign. The Pickens Plan — or Pickenomics, as I like to think of it — calls for a massive increase in the use of wind power for electricity generation, and for moving our car and truck fleets off of foreign oil and onto home-drilled natural gas.

Mr. Pickens’s $58 million campaign has included a Facebook presence, TV commercials, and an email list that has ignored repeated requests from me to unsubscribe.

Mr. Pickens has a big stake in Clean Energy Fuels, the country’s largest natural-gas fuels supplier, and it’s certainly no surprise that Chesapeake, a natural gas producer, has hopped on the bandwagon.

While less than one percent of vehicles in this country run on natural gas, Chesapeake would substantially pad its profits if it could persuade millions of consumers to drive with the fuel — and persuade the government to subsidize infrastructure investment to make that possible.
The Rise of Natural Gas Populism
By Kate Galbraith

Watching Sunday Night Football last weekend, I was intrigued to see an ad featuring Aubrey K. McClendon, the head of Chesapeake Energy, the largest independent gas producer in the country, intoning on the virtues of natural gas-fired cars.

Since the beginning of the month, readers may have also seen Mr. McClendon’s face peering out from advertisements in this newspaper, as well as The Washington Post, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. “Let’s Rescue America’s Economy,” the ad states. “Demand Natural Gas Now!”

If it seems like Pickens redux, it’s not an accident. That’s Mr. McClendon below, in an ad posted at the Chesapeake-run Web site, where the Pickens Plan is roundly endorsed.
What is interesting about the Pickens/Chesapeake twin campaigns is their direct, populist appeal. Most firms go to Washington to lobby for what they want, and there’s not doubt Mr. Pickens and Chesapeake are doing their measure of that.

But they are also spending millions of dollars doing things the old-fashioned way: taking their case over the heads of politicians and directly to the people — or more specifically, to consumers.

“We’re a producer of this stuff. We’re not in the business of building compressor units,” said Tom Price, a Chesapeake spokesman.

In other words, Chesapeake needs to find a way to reach ordinary Americans, who do not usually come into contact with the company. Chesapeake’s goal, said Mr. Price, is to “try to inspire the consumers themselves to make contact with their legislators and say, ‘Help us’!”

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