Facebook CEO’s Rational, Positive Comments About Fracking Draw Irrational, Ridiculous Facebook Backlash

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks with oilfield workers near a drilling site in North Dakota this week. (Photo Credit: Facebook)

This week’s visit by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to the oilfields of Williston, North Dakota certainly violated celebrity protocol.

Although the renewable energy-touting social media kingpin arrived on a private jet (so cliché, so hypocritical), by all accounts, his visit was driven by a genuine interest in learning about an industry he new little about, and was distinguished by a general respect for the people working on the drilling sites that he visited (Mark Ruffalo, Yoko Ono, take note). As the Washington Post reported,

“Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg this week became the latest celebrity to turn up and talk oil in North Dakota. But unlike most celebrity pilgrimages to fossil fuel regions, he came not to protest oil production but to mingle with the local workforce.”

Williston Economic Development office executive director Shawn Wenko even told the Bismarck Tribune, “He came across as a very nice guy, very open to conversation.”

Naturally, Zuckerberg took to Facebook for a post summarizing his visit, and his take on fracking was also anything but celebrity-like — it was reasonable and, at times, based on fact.

Though Zuckerberg certainly didn’t universally praise fracking, he called community around shale oil sites “fascinating.” He explained that workers flock to North Dakota “because these are good jobs where people with a high school diploma can make $100,000 a year.”

He described why many locals celebrated the opening to the Dakota Access Pipeline, contrary to the media narrative of widespread opposition to the project,

“When the Dakota Access Pipeline was approved, that removed $6-7 per barrel of cost from producing oil in the region, which brought more investment and jobs here. A number of people told me they had felt their livelihood was blocked by the government, but when Trump approved the pipeline they felt a sense of hope again. That word “hope” came up many times around this. One person told me the night the pipeline was approved, people lit fireworks and rode trucks with American flags down Main Street to celebrate.”

And he even stood up for oilfield workers,

“They believe competition from new sources of energy is good, but from their perspective, until renewables can provide most of our energy at scale, they are providing an important service we all rely on, and they wish they’d stop being demonized for it.”

Zuckerberg’s post was objective, refreshingly open-minded and cognizant of reality. But the backlash from hundreds of his followers from the anti-fracking movement Facebook helped create was, predictably, anything but. Here is just a sample of some of the more vitriolic comments actually fit to reprint on our family-friendly blog.

In his post, Zuckerberg asked his Facebook followers to “get out and learn about all perspectives.” Instead, many of them remained in their cyberbubbles, rehashing the same anti-fracking misinformation they probably read on Facebook.

Maybe if they would venture out from behind their keyboards for some firsthand experience like Zuckerberg did, they’d find what he did: A vital U.S. industry filled with hardworking people interested in providing for their families — and providing the energy their country needs.

  • Randy Verret
    Posted at 8:21 am, July 17, 2017 Reply

    I certainly applaud Mark Zuckerberg for his hands on approach, regardless of his mode of transit! As far as the Facebook “fall out,” why is anybody surprised? Our industry has (largely) been dismissive of the environmental “activists” until very recently. When all the media coverage is one-sided, what would one expect but a (largely) skeptical public? Outside of Energy in Depth, Western Energy Alliance, Natural Gas Now and a few other sites, who is (really) out there trying to get any fact based information out against the LANDSLIDE of negative fossil fuel publicity generated by the NGO’s? Until industry members fully realize that “grassroots” education and full participation by our workforce are critical to outreach & educating the public rather than reliance on trade associations and a few honest outlets like EID, we will continue to get “trounced” in the court of public opinion. Face it. Folks like the modern Sierra Club, et al have “outflanked” the oil & gas industry in the media wars. For the most part, they have created the illusion of environmental “high ground” without us barely even firing a few shots. Now continues the hard part. Something the EID staff is all too familiar. Trying to engage a largely unaware and scientifically illiterate population regarding the REAL choices & challenges we face in the ongoing energy transition. We have a big “hole” to continue to dig out of…

    • Tim Murcko
      Posted at 1:02 pm, July 18, 2017 Reply

      Hey Randy! I agree with your statements. It is a shame the industry hasn’t take more proactive approach to educate/show and the masses how the industry works. I think one of the issues holding companies back from engaging in these discussions (aside from available workforce) is fear of not actually have an honest to goodness discussion with the folks who are against the industry. While yes, there are those folks out there that would listen and engage in an otherwise positive discussion, but the fear of just getting yelled out without a discussion I think is holding many people back from engaging the public. It’s almost a catch 22. Do you engage and hope you get positive discussion and risk getting scream at, threatened et al., or do you not engage and hope those folks out there do the property research and come to their own conclusions about how things work. In my current role, I take pride in explaining/answering any questions landowners have when it comes to the industry. I try to educate anyone I talk to so they understand what’s happening & why it’s happening. So that way when they talk to their neighbors down the street and the misinformation comes out, they can state why it’s wrong. Hope all is well & wishing you the best Randy!

      • Randy Verret
        Posted at 4:55 pm, July 18, 2017 Reply

        Tim, we are on the same page of this playbook. I have been in the industry almost 37 years, some of that as a Landman…more of it as a regulatory coordinator. I certainly have made my share of effort to reach out to agencies & stakeholders and it’s no easy job. No doubt our best industry ambassadors are those who work in it!

  • Eric Planey
    Posted at 8:35 pm, July 17, 2017 Reply

    By EID posting the “haters”, you further villianize somebody with a different opinion then you. Childish. It’s impressive what Zuckerberg wrote – that’s all you had to report on. But you guys took it to the “mommy, Bobby said bad things about me” arguing 🙂

    • Randy Verret
      Posted at 8:11 am, July 18, 2017 Reply

      Eric, if you can find ANY comment that has ANY positive aspect about the oil & gas industry on ANY of the NGO websites, good luck. Talk about “haters”…

      • Eric Planey
        Posted at 1:06 pm, July 18, 2017 Reply

        Randy – I don’t disagree with you that the NGO websites are very negative. I’m saying EID doesn’t need to stoop to that level on the other side.

        • Randy Verret
          Posted at 4:51 pm, July 18, 2017 Reply

          I agree. Often, we seem to get swept into the negativity. Better to take the high road, in any case…:)

  • Helen C. Cronin
    Posted at 11:15 pm, July 18, 2017 Reply

    And who pray tell is to be more ‘cognizant’ of a billionaire’s innate sensibilities than the folk on the ground, who feel the potential for something that could be … if only the other scales could be droppéd from his vision?

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