Language matters when it comes to talking about energy, says Mark Mathis, a noted author, consultant, and filmmaker, and he urged attendees of the Montana Petroleum Association’s annual luncheon to change terminology in speaking of energy issues, and to take control of their own message.
Call carbon based fuels TECHMAP fuels. Don’t call them, “fossil fuels,” which carries with it a subtext of being an “antiquated” or irrelevant resource. TECHMAP is derived of the very relevant and vital aspects of life that are provided for by oil, gas, and coal. It stands for: Transportation, Electricity, Cooking, Heating, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Products.
Mathis, a film producer, recently completed a new film, “Fractured”, which deals with how language is “fracturing” the discussion about energy, especially among young people. Mathis has spent most of his career challenging widely accepted ideas that are simply untrue. He spent a decade as a TV news anchor and reporter. He has been a talk radio host, media trainer, and founded an energy-education non-profit. He produced an earlier film, “spOILed,”which highlighted the public’s ignorance of the central role oil plays in our lives. He is author of “Feeding the Media Beast.”
To call carbon-based fuels TECHMAP fuels would inherently underscore the absurdity of a speaker’s ideas if they had to say, “We have to get off TECHMAP fuels.” “Kids would immediately scoff at the idea,” said Mathis, “People don’t know what ‘getting off fossil fuels’ would mean.”
Mathis presented a photo, which recently went viral, of protesters in kayaks, wearing synthetic materials. Despite their obvious use of petroleum-made products they were protesting the industry, ignorant of their hypocrisy. Their “Keep it in the ground” movement couldn’t function without using oil in their protest.
Mathis said that he began thinking about the role that words play in how people perceive things, ten years ago when President George Bush declared that “we are addicted” to oil. The use of the word “addicted” implies that something is life-destroying, in most people’s minds. Understanding how much we take for granted the benefits of oil, gas and coal, Mathis said he realized we are not addicted but “spoiled,” and hence the name of his first film venture.
To call energy sources other than TECHMAP fuels, “clean” is also a term that carries with it the falsehood that those energy sources have no environmental impacts. Wind and solar energy have a huge impact on the environment, even more so than carbon-based fuels if one considers the small amounts of energy produced as a result those impacts.
The anti-energy people “concentrate on the negative with a razor-focus,” said Mathis, “There is no discussion about the positives. There is a negative, but there is a negative side to every kind of energy.”
Without hydrocarbon energy most of us would be “desperately poor,” said Mathis. Ending use of oil, gas, and coal, would mean some 6 billion people on the planet would have to disappear because of the sheer inability of renewable energy sources to do what non-renewable sources can.
“We are awash in information but drowning in lies,” said Mathis.
The phrase “what the frack,” is used in a negative way by people against energy use. It is used as part of the fracking propaganda that disparages what Mathis called, “the most important technology breakthrough in the last quarter of a century.”
“All of the above,” a phrase most commonly used by politicians, “doesn’t make energy sense, either.” In producing energy from wind and solar, “the positives aren’t high enough” to justify it. If the “balance sheet doesn’t come out,” what is the sense, asked Mathis, especially since “we have such great alternatives.”
Highly subsidized by taxpayers, wind energy can only produce about two percent of the energy we consume. And, left undiscussed is the negative of wind energy production, that it requires huge land use. Wind turbines require 2500 acres to produce the same amount energy that natural gas produces on just four acres.
“All the above,” also perpetrates a big lie. “The big lie is we can move from coal, oil, gas and nuclear, and that we can survive on just this tiny amount of production.”
And – “don’t call them environmental groups.” “Environmental groups are not about the environment, they exist to impede energy. I suspect that everyone in this room is an environmentalist.”
They also like to claim that they are “grassroots,” said Mathis, they are not. The opposition is coming “from big activist groups funded by people who have an economic interest” – including other counties, including Russia and the Middle East, which have been hurt by the “shale revolution.”
Mathis also criticized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as being “obscene” in their collaboration with lawyers who “get paid to sue and settle.”
The EPA, said Mathis, “would love to find that fracking is polluting ground water, but in five years they have found no evidence.”
“The words are out-right deceptions and it is no accident,” said Mathis.
That the untruths are knowingly perpetrated is evidenced by the video in which a farmer turns on the sink faucet in his home which spews forth flames of burning gas. Even though it is well known that that perpetrates a falsehood, it has “to be debunked continually.” The man’s well intersected naturally seeping methane gas – “it was proven in court”. “It had nothing to do with fracking.”
“We need more voices at the local level,” said Mathis, “They are making the case with a completely debunked image. ..the disinformation campaign has been so effective.”
That is why he went to films, said Mathis. “Images always beat text….we need to show the stupidity of what people are saying.”
“They are coming at you hard and you have to fight them at every level.”
New terminology for energy advocates needs to be, “TECHMAP fuels – all the below.”

Market Update

1 DOW 20,706.51
+47.19 (0.23%)    
2 S&P 2,366.60
+5.47 (0.23%)    
3 NASDAQ 5,907.21
+9.67 (0.16%)    
4 MDU 27.02
-0.14 (-0.52%)    
5 SWC 17.30
-0.05 (-0.29%)    
6 EBMT 19.95
-0.15 (-0.75%)    
7 FIBK 40.08
+1.12 (2.89%)    
8 GBCI 34.12
+1.39 (4.25%)