Brand campaign signals new direction for anti-gas activists
August 11th, 2015
A new company quietly registered last year points to the way that one of the main Australian anti-gas activist groups is trying to diversify their campaign of dishonesty and scaremongering against the natural gas industry.
According to corporate records, Gasfield Free Brands Pty Ltd (ACN 169 254 040), registered to a business address in Chatswood on Sydney’s North Shore, emerged into the corporate world in April 2014.
They’ve even registered a trademark (you can search for trademark 1626906 here) to an address associated with Lock the Gate in northern New South Wales.
The new company shares most of its DNA with Lock the Gate – some common directors and spokespeople across both groups, including the architects of the original Guide for Gasfield Free Communities – and appears to be basing its strategy on international ‘name and shame’ campaigns aimed at dividing and conquering local communities.
While full details of the no doubt earnest campaign to roll out Gasfield Free Brands are yet to be revealed, we predict some or all of the following tactics, based on the activist playbook in use around the world:
- Licensing the use of the trademarked logo to companies and producers who want to use it in return for a fee, and then downplaying the fact that the activist group is making a commercial return out of the whole thing;
- Aggressive local campaigns to try and shame companies into adopting the Gasfield Free brand, with the spectre of boycotts raised if companies don’t fall into line
- A raft of claims about the supposed impact that natural gas development has on food production, with not a single piece of fact-based evidence to back the claims;
- Promotion of a ‘certification’ scheme, the only qualifier for which will probably be payment of a fee to Gasfield Free Brands Pty Ltd, as opposed to genuine certification schemes that the Australian agriculture and food industries have worked for years to develop, implement and monitor;
- Rollout of a ‘survey’ of some sort, the questions of which will be leading in nature, and the results from which will not be subject to any form of validation before being held up as ‘evidence’ of the need for something or other.
When an applicant applies to register a trademark, they need to nominate the categories over which the trademark will apply. In this case, the applicants are trying to throw a blanket over everything from meat to coffee, from beer and spirits to medical and legal services (imagine, if you will: “your local gasfield free conveyancer”).
As usual, Australian activists have taken the lead from their US counterparts in setting up this campaign.
While the concept of a certification campaign is a little unique, it is worth taking a look at how activists have misrepresented companies and confused consumers.
One of the best examples is that of the US group Food & Water Watch (FWW), who in 2014 claimed the support of a popular local business in the Californian city of Bakersfield for their campaign to ban fracking.
As Energy in Depth pointed out, the business owners were more than a little surprised to find out that their name was being used, and demanded FWW remove the details.
The FWW campaign enlisted celebrity chefs to spearhead their Chefs Against Fracking campaign – with the obvious contradiction being that the majority of professional chefs use natural gas in their kitchens every day.
Again, for the whole story, let’s turn to Energy in Depth.
But it’s not just in California where activists try and flex their muscles in these campaigns.
Head to the western state of Colorado and you’ll find the Wild Earth Guardians, self-appointed ‘force for nature’ across the Western US.
The Guardians campaign for a range of environmental measures, including the closure of coalmines like those around the town of Craig, a proud mining town, and had previously enlisted the support of regional businesses and producers to their cause – a move that didn’t go down well with local businesses, and that led to a mass defection of their supporters once they realised that their customers were none too happy.
While Lock the Gate claim that they’ve simply registered the Gasfield Free brand for ‘potential future use’, we think there’s more to it than just that.
Watch out for this scare campaign – maybe the Gasfield Free logo will appear in a supermarket or farmers market near you.