Tisha’s Insights

Where to Apply Conviction

June 06, 2024 Tisha Schuller
White flower blossoming through cracked concrete.

The Moment is at hand—a time when forces are aligning to give oil and gas leaders a golden opportunity to reset the terms of engagement for the energy future and to lead with pragmatic solutions into that future, despite all the opposition we face.

How do you seize this opportunity?

Not by saying “I told you so” to the world. And not by ignoring what our customers and stakeholders want today: abundant energy with an ever-smaller environmental footprint.

Here’s how we meet the opportunity of The Moment: By invoking our conviction to solve the world’s energy problems. By summoning our grit and resilience—the very DNA of our industry, sprung from our roots overcoming obstacles in the field. That’s how oil and gas leaders operate. That’s our heritage: visionary leadership and can-do engineering.

Oil and gas field development is hard. Most North Americans are blissfully unaware of the nonstop, imaginative technical innovation required to produce the oil and gas they enjoy with such abundance. Every day, field personnel solve innumerable challenges while designing, siting, building, and operating oil and gas infrastructure. And that problem-solving defines who we are and what we do. As Albert Girgis of EQT and I discussed recently on my Energy Thinks podcast, oil and gas companies have a unique culture of grit and resilience that flows from this work in the field.

I have experienced this grit and resilience and seen firsthand how it can and will drive our leadership in The Moment.

The sh*t hits the flood

When I ran the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), the Front Range of Colorado experienced a massive flood that isolated tens of thousands of people, required the largest helicopter evacuation since Hurricane Katrina (including my kids), and buried thousands of wells under water. Activists hired helicopters, showed pictures of floating 55-gallon drums, and claimed that oil wells were compromised and leaking copiously. (Spoiler alert: They weren’t. Not one.)

COGA set up a communications center that engaged hourly with member companies to track assessment of wells and to interface with first responders, regulators, communities, and the media. And it won’t surprise you that companies not only mobilized quickly, assertively, and comprehensively to assess and secure their operations, they also organized teams to deliver diapers and other necessities to isolated communities. They sent out staff and family volunteers with backhoes and shovels to clear neighborhood roads. For weeks, they led responses in the communities where they lived and operated. Because of their conviction about the importance of service, they embodied grit and resilience until the job was done.

In the industry, we are good at a lot of things: seeing the problems and solving them, by not just making a plan but executing on it. We excel at running analyses and using the results to create a path forward. We innovate. We build really complex things in the world’s harshest environments. We face obstacles without flinching, and then we figure out a way to overcome them.

That’s how we’re going to seize The Moment as well.

Two seemingly opposed ideas can both be true at the same time:

  • Our conviction, grit, and resilience—when unchanneled—can look like the defensive posture of yesterday’s energy leader.
  • Channeling our conviction to lead into the energy future that our stakeholders, customers, and employees want—and marshalling our grit and resilience to stay the course in the face of opposition—will allow us to seize The Moment. It will be virtually irresistible.

OG grit, please meet the vision of the energy future

As Energy Thinks guest and author James Pethokoukis says in his book The Conservative Futurist, “Our beliefs about the future matter, so let’s act like it.” I have fully bought into Pethokoukis’s “Up Wing” philosophy, which he describes as a “broad techno-optimist, future-oriented, solutionist worldview.” So what happens when we apply OG field grit to the opportunities The Moment offers us?

First: We summon our conviction as heirs in the great chain of oil and gas leadership. Conviction is our spine. We need it because critics are coming, and will come, at us from all sides. Activists don’t trust our sincerity. Allies don’t want us to “sell out” to the “woke mafia.” Conviction gives oil and gas leaders the courage to make a plan and stick to it.

Second: We meet our societal stakeholders—who want ever more energy with an ever-smaller environmental footprint—not by lecturing them about why they shouldn’t want that smaller footprint, but with our “get ’er done” mindset. We ask: What’s the problem? What are my new technical resources? What hurdles must I overcome? And we keep asking as new challenges emerge.

Third: Then we apply our grit to articulate a practical vision of that energy future, one that creates emotional connections to our stakeholders and also one we know we can implement. To capture the attention and partnership of our communities, customers, and regulators, we need to present an energy future that they can believe in and we can deliver on. Inspiration and implementation are equally necessary for rising to meet The Moment.

Fourth: We channel that positive vision to motivate and mobilize our employees. In the face of so many critics and challenges, our vision provides the emotional hook and nourishment to keep us going into The Moment and beyond. The obstacles look different—permitting, opposition, investor expectations—but with an animating vision, our employees will keep finding ways through, ways to success.

Conviction, grit, and resilience define our industry—we’ve had these characteristics all along. It’s time to put them to use in new ways.

“But they don’t want us to solve it!”

Our stakeholders (and the wider public) want energy solutions that deliver abundance and that ever-shrinking environmental footprint. But often, they simply don’t want the oil and gas industry to be the one to deliverthose solutions—because we’ve been labeled as evil (or greedy, or on the wrong political team, or any of a dozen other pejoratives).

So what?

This is the point that trips up so many in our industry, along with some of its most popular cheerleaders. The public doesn’t want our solutions, and…we give them solutions anyway. Because our solutions are necessary. And because solving energy problems—and then solving the next energy problem—is what we’ve always done.

That’s leadership as we’ve always practiced it—springing directly from our roots in the field, applied to the challenges of real sustainability work. The obstacles may look different, but the trajectory is the same. Our conviction, grit, and resilience will keep us out of the defensive posturing of victimhood. They will allow us to transcend political polarization. They will power us to success.

I’d like to thank Kayla Chieves for all her help with our Both True editions. I am delighted to welcome Katie Pearson to Adamantine!

Please reach out to let me know what you think about this post. If this email was forwarded to you, you can sign up here.

Bring it.



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Both of These Things Are True

By Tisha Schuller