May 6, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Scanlan Presents on Fracking at Sociological Association Meeting

Dr. Stephen J. Scanlan, Associate Professor of Sociology, presented “Framing Fracking: Resource Extraction, Economic Development, and Greenwashing” in a session on environmental sociology focused on fracking at the North Central Sociological Association 2013 annual meeting April 4-7 in Indianapolis.

This paper examines the framing mechanisms of the U.S. gas industry in light of the political economy of resource extraction and controversies surrounding hydraulic-fracturing, or fracking. Framing is central to social movement activity in that activists attempt to shape debate regarding social issues in their favor. However, targets of protest have become equally adept at such “spin” in creating counter-narratives and this has especially been important to corporate actors regarding connections with environmental concerns that often negatively put them in the public spotlight. The gas industry in particular has sought to shape their image and that of fracking processes in a positive light, touting economic benefits and minimal ecological harm despite potential environmental catastrophe. I examine advertising campaigns as well as documents from corporate websites including factsheets, position papers, and social responsibility statements. I contrast what the gas industry views as public relations and environmental marketing practices with what critics argue is “greenwashing” that intends to deceive policymakers and the general public. This analysis is important to scholarship on environmental justice and the social and political economy dynamics of resource extraction which corporate power often dominates.

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