The best question I’ve heard this year? When I was speaking at an event in Alberta (I heart Canadian oil and gas): a highly placed executive who doubles as a soccer mom asked me: When will the soccer moms revolt? Meaning, reject the oil and gas opposition that is making resource development more difficult, expensive, or even impossible. I asked my crystal ball.
The news isn’t pretty.
The question reflects a theme I often hear out in oil and gas country: We will be redeemed and victorious when… gasoline prices are too high, geopolitics are negatively affected, there’s a heating fuel shortage during winter… complete the sentence with your reckoning of choice.
I’m sorry, BT fans, my read of the crystal ball: You will soon be disappointed…
In honor of the Halloween season, here’s the second in the Crystal Ball five-part series.
Both of these things are true:
- Oil and gas is mission-critical for economic prosperity and day-to-day living. It must be always available and always affordable.
- My crystal ball does not foresee a reckoning where the anti-oil-and-gas public says, We were wrong! We need you!
problem crystal ball reveals:
You will soon be disappointed if you hoped opponents of oil and gas would change their minds. Here’s why.
- When fuel oil shortages hit the northeastern US in 2018, did the public blame anti-pipeline activists that have effectively blocked natural gas from improving both air quality and fuel affordability? No, they blamed the oil and gas industry writ large, including heating oil providers.
- In several phases over many years, Colorado communities have banned fracking. But has anyone addressed oil and gas demand in their jurisdiction? Nope. Not one.
- Despite years of conspiring events – from stymied wildfire mitigation to drought to infrastructure challenges – that have led to PG&E’s rolling blackouts to prevent wildfires in California, does the public respond: We had no idea that our reliable power was so important? No. They blame PG&E.
- When Canadian oil is trading at a $14 discount because of pipeline constraints or California’s energy prices are the highest in the nation, does the public say, We should think more carefully about the tradeoffs of energy regulation and opposition? I think you know the answer.
My crystal ball doesn’t say this is right, or fair. The fog simply reveals that the public – including your stakeholders, shareholders, and communities – does not have a track record of suddenly appreciating the miracle of affordable, abundant energy. (Or, to be fair, water, food, roads or bridges, either.)
It matters because:
Part of the industry’s business-as-usual strategy is consciously or unconsciously relying on the idea of this inevitable reckoning: The Revolt of the Soccer Moms. If it’s not going to happen, we have to do some things very differently.
The critical mistakes companies are making:
Doubling down on education as the solution. Education as a stand-alone strategy requires a leap-of-faith that the public, and all those moms, will suddenly appreciate their energy wealth if they have more facts. Do you see this happening for water providers? Or state transportation departments?
Seize the day. It’s not all grim – knowing the risks allows us to plan and mitigate. Let’s break out the Magic 8 Ball now and do just that.
- DON’T COUNT ON IT. Let’s let go of the idea that there will be a reckoning and we will then be the beneficiaries of a hometown parade. So now what?
- YES – DEFINITELY. Your strategy should include a pathway that engages stakeholders who will never appreciate your company’s value in providing energy. In this case, your value proposition to your stakeholders includes shared aspirations – such as civic leadership and community philanthropy. Give some thought to what else.
- BETTER NOT TELL YOU NOW. That you should conduct a risk assessment – again.
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