The Limbik Deep Dive Series: The ‘Deliberate Gas Prices’ Narrative

Known for its volatility, the energy sector has featured prominently in recent major international developments: the COVID-19 pandemic spurred on global initiatives working towards a green economic recovery. Meanwhile, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted Europe’s dangerously undiversified energy portfolio and has prompted the REPowerEU Plan that includes initiatives to accelerate the EU’s clean energy transition. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security identifies 16 sectors that are “so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.” Critical infrastructure sectors such as the energy sector are particularly vulnerable to activities by foreign and malicious actors, not only through cyberattacks but increasingly through carefully tailored disinformation operations.

In response to the heightened vulnerability of critical infrastructure sectors to mis-, dis-, and malinformation, Limbik has been evaluating the “Deliberate Gas Prices” narrative since April 2022. Rather than understanding current gas prices as the result of the price of crude oil in the aftermath of the sanctions imposed on Moscow and pandemic-related closure of oil refineries, this narrative purports that the high gas prices are deliberately concocted by various actors. Some variants of this narrative implicate the Russo-Ukrainian War as an elaborate scheme to power a green transition, while other variants have propagated this narrative as part of already circulating conspiracy theories, specifically the purported Great Reset and Agenda 2030 conspiracy theories. The latter involve governments conspiring with the energy sector to hike up gas prices to push their dystopian vision of global, green, authoritarian rule. Although the narrative has been molded to fit these different variants, the overarching sentiment that prices are deliberately increased to ensure a green transition at the expense of the working and middle class is persistently present in analyzed artifacts.

Potential for Impact

Potential for Impact (PFI) is a predictive metric used by Limbik to assess how narratives will resonate with the adult population of a given country. The above figure shows the PFI of “Deliberate Gas Prices” week-over-week among the US adult population

  • The average PFI, high narrative PFI, and low narrative PFI lines all refer to other critical infrastructure related MDM narratives Limbik is evaluating.

  • If the PFI for a particular narrative is greater than 100, this means the narrative has an increased likelihood of resonating with the U.S. adult population (and therefore poses a higher risk). If the PFI for a particular narrative is less than 100, the narrative has a lower likelihood of resonating with the U.S. adult population (and therefore poses a manageable risk).

  • The “Deliberate Gas Prices” narrative has generally recorded PFIs above the average of all critical infrastructure related MDM narratives Limbik is evaluating. This is congruent with a trend of energy sector-related MDM being the most potentially impactful of all Critical Infrastructure Sectors MDM evaluated by Limbik.

  • Of note, “Deliberate Gas Prices” recorded its lowest PFI to date in the most recent monitoring period, which corresponds to news throughout the United States of prices at the gas pump starting to come down. The relevance of this narrative that implicates the government as a malicious actor with a hidden agenda clearly has lost some of its resonance as market conditions have begun to change.

Source(s): Twitter, Facebook, Reddit

Foreign Influence

Limbik has quantified Foreign Influence (FI) to analyze how much of the artifact volume purporting the “Deliberate Gas Prices” narrative originated from outside the United States. As seen in the figure above, the week-over-week FI for “Deliberate Gas Prices” has oscillated widely but has generally garnered a lower FI than the average FI for all critical infrastructure related MDM narratives Limbik is evaluating. The high FI at the start of May related to increased post volume from the United Kingdom. The subsequent peak in FI at the end of May was less geographically defined but also had considerable post volume that originated in the United Kingdom. Artifacts were equally conspiratorial and, for example, linked London’s sanctioning of Russian capital in the UK as part of the Great Reset plan.

Although efforts by the Biden Administration to ensure lower gas prices continue, the President’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia did not result in a promise of increased supplies of Saudi oil. Furthermore, the PFI of narratives that purport a global conspiracy of governments relentlessly pushing a green agenda at the expense of the working and middle class will likely continue to spread: the widespread demonstrations by Dutch livestock farmers in response to the Dutch government’s recent proposal seeking to halve nitrogen oxide and ammonia pollution in the country by 2030 has been framed by some as evidence of the Great Reset Conspiracy Theory. Regardless of the latest drop in PFI of “Deliberate Gas Prices”, this narrative and variants with the same underlying message will likely continue to be propagated in the weeks ahead, especially as the economy remains a focal point ahead of the midterm elections in November.

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