by Jeff Share, Hart Energy
Originally published by Hart Energy, October 18, 2019
The next time I’m in an involved discussion or debate on energy
issues, I want Tisha Schuller on my team. Why? She is enlightened, understands
the business from every angle and doesn’t mince words. In fact, for the
principal and founder in 2015 of Adamantine Energy in Boulder, Colo., words are
Some background: Schuller is a 1993 graduate of Stanford
University with a bachelor’s of science degree in earth systems with an
emphasis in geology. She is strategic advisor for Stanford’s Natural Gas
Initiative and directed a symposium focused on reducing poverty in the developing
world through natural gas. Schuller wrote a book titled “Accidentally Adamant”
She was also president and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas
Association (COGA) from 2010 to 2015, during which time, she encountered two
life-altering crises: evacuating her family from the Fourmile Canyon fire near
Boulder in 2010 and a second evacuation from Colorado flooding in September
2013. Before joining COGA she was a principal and vice president with Tetra
Tech, an environmental consulting and engineering firm, for 15 years. A public
speaker, she also serves on the National Petroleum Council. She has a weekly
email series called “Both of These Things are
How did she end up in oil and gas?
“I ended up in oil and gas by accident and reluctantly,” she
told Hart Energy. “I was working as an environmental consultant, and the
company I first worked for only had oil and gas work for me to do. Over the
next 15 years, I ended up doing 85% of my work in this sector—and over time—I
came to know, respect and even love the oil and gas industry. When the
opportunity came to represent the industry as the CEO of the Colorado Oil &
Gas Association—I jumped at the chance!”
Schuller’s education and work experiences have made her an
expert on the environmental issues confronting the energy industry. But that’s
just one issue that has led to today’s serious divide today, she said.
“We aren’t just looking at environmental issues anymore—we are
in the middle of a culture war,” she said. “Polarized politics are embodied in
the energy, environmental, climate debates. And this is not a war where we can
arm and escalate, because, among other things, we are losing ground day by day.
Instead, we have to change the conversation and transcend the conflict.”
Many believe the activists’ goal is simply to shut down the
entire petroleum industry. So, the issue might be whether climate change is really
a subterfuge for a greater agenda. It’s not quite that simple, Schuller said.
“Today many people want to end the use of fossil fuels, but not
for the reasons we think. We aren’t in a ‘professional activist vs. the
industry’ scenario anymore,” she said. “A tremendous number of people, maybe
even a majority, in North America believe that the era of fossils is over. They
are wrong, but they believe it, and they are mobilizing.
“Perhaps most importantly, ‘they’ are our stakeholders: our
communities, regulators, elected officials, and neighbors,” she continued. “So,
it doesn’t really matter if their facts are wrong; we have to engage with them
in a new kind of dialogue to chart a shared energy future.”
And what about climate change taking on a near-religious fervor going into the 2020 elections?
“Everyone in the energy, environment, climate debate has gone
into a religious frenzy, including us (industry),” Schuller said. “Climate has
permeated every aspect of the liberal worldview, but that doesn’t mean we can
dismiss them or their concern about climate change. Opposition to oil and gas
has created such a significant social risk (meaning political, policy, and
community risk) that we have to assess it as we would a weather risk—and
mitigate that risk proactively.
“In the same way it’s irrelevant if we believe in the risk of a
tornado, it’s irrelevant if we believe the same things as climate hawks.
Instead, we can focus on addressing that risk proactively and positively.”
And the time to do that is now, she insisted.
“I imagine they (the American public) are exhausted and
discouraged like the rest of us,” she said. “They want someone to lead who has
vision, resources, commitment, dollars and scale. Wait, shouldn’t that be us?
Why yes, I believe it should.”
Consulting with leading energy companies offers Schuller a
front-row seat to their response to this critical issue.
“The international oil and gas majors have read the tea leaves well and are putting out bold visions for a decarbonized energy future. [One could argue that they have responded reactively to investor pressure in the European Union. Either way, they are showing a path forward.] Generally, in the U.S, we are showing up a day late and a dollar short: methane reductions are expected; talking about climate without breaking out in hives is mainstream.
We need to up our game significantly and immediately, or risk being run over by a galloping public opinion.”
Schuller offers a clear solution to “de-escalate” the debate. “Energy companies need to share the vision the public has of a decarbonized energy future. With that shared vision, the discussion of the path and current energy requirements becomes palatable.”
Schuller also elaborated on one of her most passionate topics:
addressing climate change by raising people out of poverty. “I argue that
raising the standard of living of billions of people around the world is a more
pressing priority than climate change,” she said. “If we can do so with less
carbon, we absolutely should—but it is the height of hypocrisy to slow down
economic development around the world by requiring a zero-carbon energy
The COGA Years
During her five years leading COGA, much was accomplished in
moving Colorado into a leading position in the development of oil and gas in
the Rocky Mountains For Schuller, two programs in particular stand out.
“We built an industry ambassador’s program that became the model
of many you see today.,” she said. “We also built a year-long leadership
program, EnGen, for the Energy Generation, in order to engage and keep
millennials in the industry. They are our greatest asset in this paradigm shift
and I’m honored to have been a part of engaging so many.”
However, a recent change, Senate Bill 181 which was signed into
law earlier this year, is casting a shadow on future oil and gas development in
Colorado. The new law gives local communities increased regulatory authority
over oil and gas operations. Industry officials claim this will threaten future
“I think that only the best operators—across the value
chain—will still be in business in five years. Companies will have to be true
development partners with their communities,” Schuller said. “This is a
radically different paradigm. But, before you divest from your Colorado assets,
take note: these kinds of operational requirements will be coming to a
community near you. It’s only a matter of time. Instead, invest in meeting the
Regardless of today’s seemingly insurmountable challenges (at
least to others), Schuller insists her positive perception of the energy
industry has only grown through the years.
“My love for this industry knows no bounds. I challenge myself
every day to look at the world through the eyes of the opponents of oil and
gas, and I still see vital, precious, resources that we will want and need for
decades to come,” she said.
“More importantly, I see an industry with the dollars, people,
knowledge, R&D capacity, and ingenuity to lead into the decarbonized energy
future. Add to this basket of resources the millennials who are coming of age
and into leadership – and I know – we got this,” she added.