Tisha’s Insights

The Moment: Resist Your Instincts & Seize It

May 23, 2024 Tisha Schuller

Right now—this moment—our industry has an unprecedented opportunity.

An opportunity I’m calling The Moment. An opening for us to (finally) lead the world into the energy transition and the energy future.

To seize The Moment, though, will require tremendous leadership and discipline across the industry. Do we have the depth and breadth of resolve? Can we lead instead of saying “I told you so”?

I’m writing my next book about The Moment. Because it’s the most important opportunity we’ve had in our lifetimes.

Both of these things are true:

  • In this moment—The Moment—we suddenly have leverage to shift the dialogue about the energy transition to one more grounded in realities. That’s because forces are combining to lay bare the difficult truths of the energy transition for policymakers and serious advocates—and even the public.
  • Many of oil and gas’s staunchest supporters have been predicting that this day would come—and will be sorely tempted to advance a passionate defense of the status quo. That would be a mistake.

Why The Moment? Why Now?

The Moment is a “perfect storm” of virtue—several advantageous forces coalescing to release us from the pickle we’re in, created by polarized energy and climate politics and their wider social impacts.

The pickle has meant we’ve been shut out of the energy transition. Our companies, resources, personnel, and decarbonization solutions have been vilified; we’ve often been unable to lead or even participate.

The pickle has also allowed an “easy transition” mirage to flourish—the belief (which many climate hawks know is incorrect but don’t contradict) that the energy transition will be a relatively straightforward process achievable through simple solutions that merely require the proper policy incentives and consumer goodwill. The “easy transition” is a mirage—but it’s made promoting sensible, scalable energy solutions to the wider world of pro-climate-action stakeholders extremely difficult.

The Moment is happening now. And it will be available to us for perhaps as long as two years, if we don’t blow it. The forces producing The Moment include (1) radically changing perceptions of power needs in developed economies, thanks to the projections of AI’s growing energy requirements, and (2) first-mover jurisdictions bumping up against the tough realities of decarbonization.

Why might we blow The Moment? If we follow our worst instincts and (1) declare victory by mistaking this as a political win, and/or (2) say “I told you so” instead of offering solutions.

Over the coming months, I’ll be previewing my thinking on The Moment here—both to stress-test the ideas and to sound a warning siren to help us resist our instincts. But I already have suggestions (see below) on what you should be doing instead to seize this incredible opportunity.

The Situation

There are several forces combining to make up The Moment. Today I’ll focus on the most prominent one: changing forecasts of total energy demand, to meet anticipated AI needs.

You don’t have to look far to find paradigm-shifting conversations about growing energy demand forecasts:

  • A Wall Street Journal headline from earlier this month,  “There’s Not Enough Power for America’s High-Tech Ambitions” summarizes the situation well.
  • A recent Scientific American article presents an AI power forecast in terms any stakeholder can understand: “[I]f you were to fully turn Google’s search engine into something like ChatGPT, and everyone used it that way—so you would have nine billion chatbot interactions instead of nine billion regular searches per day … Google would need as much power as Ireland just to run its search engine.”
  • Boston Consulting Group says that by 2030 (six years from now!), data power use could triple, with electricity use equivalent to that of 40 million homes in the United States.
  • Finally, one research paper predicts that by 2040, digital data storage could contribute 14 percent of the world’s emissions. Fourteen percent! Will the cows be off the hook?

Why is the prospect of huge energy demands by AI bringing us The Moment? Three big reasons:

Pressing need. Companies that can deliver energy abundance are suddenly thrust into the spotlight by this development. That spotlight can become the bully pulpit for those who can articulate a vision for meeting energy needs while simultaneously decreasing carbon intensity.

Shattering simplicity. The dramatic forecasts lay bare the absence of a plan to provide reliable (aka always on) and affordable power under such growth scenarios. The challenge of meeting just these two criteria is daunting in the face of such quickly growing demand. As a result, all the other important tradeoffs around new power and transmission growth that were always challenging—siting, decarbonizing, water efficiency, community engagement, and wildlife impact—now seem especially intimidating.

Changing landscape. Such a dramatically changing landscape allows proponents of what we will call the “easy transition” to save face. I hesitate to put this so baldly—but I am doing so anyway, because it’s at the heart of what makes this moment The Moment. Those who have been identified with an oversimplified vision of the energy transition—making commitments, passing legislation, generally painting themselves into a corner—now have in AI a reasonable rationale to revisit their priors.

Central to leading in The Moment? Letting them do just that.

Seize the day

My biggest critics will encourage you to respond to The Moment with a sophisticated version of “I told you so.” I share that instinct, so I’m sympathetic. But giving in to that response would squander the day. Giving in would not be leadership.

Consider this: When was the last time someone in your life celebrated your mistake? I have a teenage son at home, so I am deeply familiar with this experience. This sort of critique is more inclined to make you grab another beer than evolve your thinking on a topic.

Instead: Step into The Moment, understanding it for the unique, perhaps once-in-a-generation gift that it is. Three essential moves for all of us:

Articulate your vision. The current conversations around increasing energy demand have everyone looking around to see who is going to own this problem. You are! Step into the space with a coherent vision that acknowledges the opportunity and need ahead while narrating what your industry and company are doing to prepare for it.

Give grace. As The Moment hits, everyone (from passionate activists to seasoned policymakers) will begin grappling with their changing understanding of the complexity of the future of energy and climate. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Their intentions were and are good. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to evolve one’s thinking. (You might be testing that proposition right now!) We can help by staying out of the way.

Look for opportunities to lead. The Moment will do nothing to change the decarbonization direction of climate and energy action. What it will do, if we engage constructively, is change the players, pace, and tools. So embrace The Moment: Articulate what you can do to aid progress. We “work the problem” (as Shawn Patterson called it) by showing up as partners to meet The Moment.

What do you want to know about The Moment? Upcoming installments will look at other trends, explore more about the why, and focus on what we can do to step in and lead.

Thank you to Morgan Gass for her research contributing to this piece. Want to explore The Moment in a workshop with your leadership? Reach out to schedule an engagement. If you find this newsletter useful, please forward it to three colleagues. Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here.

To life outside the pickle jar,



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Both of These Things Are True

By Tisha Schuller