When the energy industry publishes a coloring book, there is no crayon needed to see the shades of gray.
Exhibit A: "Talisman Terry's Energy Adventure," a handout for children published by Talisman Energy that explains the natural gas industry with the help of a "friendly Fracosaurus" dinosaur named Terry.
Everyone smiles in Terry's world. Mom smiles, Dad smiles, the worker smiles, the dog smiles, the cat smiles, the deer smiles, the fish smiles, the sun smiles, the moon smiles, the flower smiles, the rock smiles. Even the helium balloon -- used to demonstrate how "natural gas is lighter than air" -- smiles.
The coloring book's overt message -- drilling is smart, safe and American -- is delivered in kid-friendly fashion, glossing over the environmental and economic controversies that have surrounded drillers tapping the Marcellus Shale rock formation for lucrative pockets of gas.
And like other early education efforts by the energy industry, the coloring book is called harmless fun by the industry and dishonest propaganda by critics.
While there are a number of UK journalists with the intellectual capacity, but not curiosity of an eight year old, who need a cheat sheet like Talisman's, I think their effort underlines a disconnect when it comes to Europe. I lived for many years in the USA and have seen many US companies come to grief in Europe and vice versa. Think Costco, Safeway on one hand and Marks & Spencer and Tesco in retailing for example. One key thing that might work in the US but definitely won't in Europe is nationalism:
At last week's Chesapeake-hosted Day of Family Fun in Charleston, W.Va., the beagle mascot rode a horse (the video was uploaded to the company's "Ask Chesapeake" Facebook page). Charlie wears his patriotism literally on his sleeve, with an American flag patch on the side of his jumpsuit.
Talisman Terry maintains a patriotic motif, as well.
On one page, the height of a rig is compared to the Statue of Liberty, a space shuttle, a California Redwood tree and -- tallest of all -- a skyscraper.
"There's an emblem of America, an emblem of technology, an emblem of nature and an emblem of business," said Lori Campbell, a children's literature professor at the University of Pittsburgh who read "Talisman Terry" at the Post-Gazette's request. "It's sending the message that we should be free to do whatever."
In the coloring book, the same plot of land doesn't look much different in the "Before Drilling" and "After Drilling" illustrations. If anything, the "after" image seems more pastoral: new trees have been planted, a bald eagle soars over the hill, a rainbow has appeared.
The all-smiles delivery "undermines any of the negativity by making it all about fun and games," said Ms. Campbell.
"It's fairly innocuous," she said. "And a little bit subversive."
Permit me to point out that the first time companies tried to translate the US shale experience to another culture it quickly became the fiasco of Quebec which went on to infect the French debate. Then the French debate comes back and impacts the US debate. As, they say in the US (but not the UK): What goes around, comes around. Shale gas geology is all the same thousands of feet, or meters, below ground. But the society sitting on top of the various shales are as different as chalk and cheese. Which after all is an expression that's never heard in the US.