Update – following the publication of this story, almost all of the Instagram posts promoting the #GoNaturalGas campaign have been removed. In their place are a number of new posts from climate change campaigners conveying the message that ‘gas ain’t cute’.
Social media platform Instagram has emerged as a lucrative platform for both “influencers” and advertisers, and this hasn’t gone unnoticed by the fossil fuel industry.
Instagram has traditionally been a platform for promoting fitness gear, clothing, jewellery and household items – but it is now being used to convince people of the apparent virtues of natural gas.
The “Go Natural Gas” promotional campaign is being pushed by Australian utility Jemena, which appears to have ramped-up in recent weeks with a flurry of posts that have featured a range of Australian Instagram influencers and reality television personalities.
Using the hashtag #GoNaturalGas, Instagram influencers have taken to the platform to plug natural gas, dropping in references to how great the “natural gas flame” is for cooking and heating.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests the use of natural gas has a similar contribution to global warming to that of coal, and that the grow of Australia’s natural gas industry has underpinned significant increases in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition to its contribution to climate change, the use of natural gas within homes for cooking and heating has been found to significantly increase indoor air pollution with a substantial impact on user’s health, according to research from the Rocky Mountain Institute.
The attractiveness of using Instagram as an advertising platform is the ability to engage users with large followings to promote products “organically” by making them a part of their posts and giving them the appearance of being a normal part of their daily lifestyles.
Oddly, many of the Instagram influencers engaged by the campaign promote the benefits of sustainable living and the benefits of living close to nature.
Sydney based Catherine Heraghty, who has an Instagram following of 176,000, promoted the use of gas an its ability to provide endless hot showers, and recommending that those building a new home should ensure they have gas connected.
“When we built our house we decided to hook up to natural gas so that we could enjoy instant hot water that never runs out!” Heraghty says in a post to her “the_stables_” account.
The collaborations also include former ‘Married At First Sight’ contestant Melissa Lucarelli, who has an Instagram following of over 100,000 and who promoted the apparent health benefits of natural gas saying that “Spending just 15 minutes by a natural flame significantly reduces blood pressure and increases relaxation!”
An almost identical post was made featuring winners of Channel Nine’s The Block in 2018, Hayden and Sara, as part of a wider campaign run by Jemena alongside Women’s Health Week.
Some of the sponsored posts promote the benefits of using gas for cooking, which has long presented a barrier to convince people from switching from gas to renewably powered electric stoves.
“I love cooking on our gas stove top as it heats up quickly and always cooks things evenly all round.
Pancakes are a breeze and cook within minutes, which is always important with two hungry kids at my feet,” Sydney based Leah Williams said in a post to her ‘the.dearest.days’ account, which boasts more than 82,000 followers.
Williams has previously partnered with electricity retailer Origin Energy to promote ways to save energy.
Following the initial publication of this story on Thursday, most of the paid promotional posts have since been removed from Instagram, but not after they received a deluge of new comments pointing out the problematic issue of promoting a fossil fuel.
The Climate Council was quick to respond with its own Instagram post, responding to the pro-gas advertising campaign.
The campaigns come in stark contrast to efforts to reduce Australia’s fossil fuel consumption, and a transition away from natural gas and replacing it with renewable energy sources.
The ACT government recently removed a mandatory requirement for new homes built in the territory to be connected to the mains gas network, in recognition that the requirement was incompatible with its goal to reach zero net emissions by 2040.
Canberra’s gas supplier, EvoEnergy, which is a 50:50 joint venture between the ACT government and Jemena conceded in in a draft Gas Network Plan for 2021-2026 that it will be forced to change its business model away from natural gas, and look to supply a larger proportion of the city’s gas use with renewable gas.
The advertising tactic has already been well used in the united states, with similar campaigns being run using the American Gas Associations slogan of “cooking with gas”.
While many companies say they recognise the need to transition away from fossil fuels, it doesn’t prevent them running advertising campaigns aimed at convincing people to stick to coal and gas.
Jemena has been contacted for comment.