How natural gas companies use social media stars to influence consumers

Hosted by

The fossil fuel industry has been trying to garner public support for 90 years. Since the 1930s, advertising campaigns have boasted the benefits of using natural gas. 

Some of these campaigns come from trade groups affiliated with natural gas utilities, including SoCalGas, which is the largest gas utility in the country. And just as technology has found ways to evolve, so has advertising. 

Through the years, the campaigns have gone from PSA-style TV commercials to Instagram influencers’ sponsored pictures with #cookingwithgas (that hashtag has been around since 2018). There have even been campaigns elsewhere such as the popular neighborhood app, Nextdoor. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by HAILEY PHAM (@haileypham)

In 2020, an account manager with the PR firm Imprenta Communications Group posed as a Culver City resident and instigated a heated debate over fears that the city would ban gas in a community thread. One of the PR firm’s clients was a front group for SoCalGas. 

Mother Jones reporter Rebecca Leber has been covering how the fossil fuel industry has been messaging the country for years, and looked into this incident. She says that the warning of a natural gas ban in Culver City was based on “misinformation because they were talking about new buildings and gas hookups and not taking away the stove from your kitchen.”

The Nextdoor story is emblematic of how the natural gas industry is turning to new mediums to advocate for their products. 

Leber says, “We see how the gas industry has tried to infiltrate communities to raise this alarmist rhetoric that you will lose your stove if you side with environmentalists. Now that is not true, but the industry has used social media to its advantage to turn gas stoves into a wedge issue in climate battles throughout the country.”

Imprenta Communication Group told Leber that the Nextdoor post was an isolated incident.