Tisha’s Insights

The World’s Cleanest O&G On Stage

March 24, 2022 Tisha Schuller
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At CERAWeek earlier this month, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm spoke for the first time in their Biden administration roles about the importance of U.S. oil and gas in the context of overall U.S. energy security.  Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent Western-imposed sanctions on Russia have threatened energy supply and changed the administration’s rhetoric.  Game-changing oil and gas leaders are not squandering the opportunity this rhetorical shift has created.

Unfortunately, plenty of old-school oil and gas leaders are enjoying this moment — a little too much — by triumphantly doubling down on existing polarized and partisan talking points. They’re wasting the opportunity presented to our sector by the renewed global demand for more oil and gas. Smart and savvy leaders are separating themselves from the pack and talking about how effectively North American oil and gas resources can both respond to the current energy security crisis and accelerate climate action.

Game-changing leaders are not responding this way because they are naïve or generous or have very short memories. They’re seizing this moment in the spotlight to create a new, nuanced conversation about: (1) the role of oil and gas today, (2) the importance of producing in North America, and (3) the complexity of the energy transition.

Both of These Things Are True:

  • It’s now clear to everyone who wants to see: The world cannot get off oil today.
  • That doesn’t mean the energy transition is doomed nor that interest in addressing climate change is waning.

The Situation

It is frustrating to suddenly have European, Canadian, and U.S. administration officials who have talked of nearly nothing other than prioritizing climate in addressing the energy future suddenly chiding the industry to produce more. Forward-looking leaders ask themselves: How can I serve my country and global democracy in this moment while still running my business? They’re not looking backward to critique the misinformation, misalignment, and misunderstandings that got us here. (Okay — yes, they do so privately. But that’s it!)

We know there is an opening for a new conversation when we see quotes like these emerging from the conference:

“Gas is going to be a key component of the [energy] transition, there’s no question about it.” — Kerry

“Obviously energy is turbulent right now with the volatility of price, supply and demand. It’s something we’re going to live with for a little while in the midst of this. But we all have to come together… this is a defining moment for this century and the stakes could not be higher with respect to our allies in the frontline states.”Kerry

“We are on a war footing — an emergency — and we have to responsibly increase short-term supply where we can right now to stabilize the market and to minimize harm to American families.… And that means you producing more right now, where and if you can.” — Granholm

“Aren’t we ready to finally work together to confront this moment of crisis…and come out stronger on the other side? I’m here to tell you that the Department of Energy, and the entire Biden administration, is ready to work with you to seize the opportunity of clean energy.” — Granholm

“It is a transition…and we’re pragmatic about what it means. We know it won’t happen overnight. And we’re serious about decarbonizing while providing reliable energy that doesn’t depend on foreign adversaries. That means we’ll walk and chew gum at the same time. So yes, right now, we need oil and gas production to rise to meet current demand.” — Granholm

“I’m here to extend a hand of partnership…because we’ll only be able to meet these challenges of oil and gas supply and climate change by working together. For me, Putin’s actions and the resolve of the Ukrainian people give me even more determination to get this energy transition right.” — Granholm

It’s easy to think that this moment is the reckoning for fossil-free thinking that we’ve been waiting for. Finally! Policymakers and pundits alike are united in the need to address demand through increased supply, to prioritize energy security, and to address the cost of energy. And yet: This is only a moment. If we double down on one side of the climate-versus-energy narrative by saying some 2020s equivalent of “Drill, baby, drill,” we are actually reinforcing the paradigm we so passionately reject. By playing the expected, clichéd role of oil and gas villain, we empower the narrative that oil and gas leaders don’t care about the climate.

Instead let’s…

Seize the Day

The world’s cleanest oil and gas is in the limelight. Let’s grasp this opportunity to start a new kind of conversation.

  • Embrace civic leadership. The third gamechanger from The Gamechanger’s Playbook is back! Like the early days of COVID-19 panic, the war in Ukraine presents an opportunity for oil and gas leaders to step in as civic leaders. Let’s put forward bold solutions that give us the opportunity to acknowledge the complexity of the energy system and energy transitions.
  • Even in this moment, put climate first. Especially in this moment. Climate will be front and center again, and we have an extraordinary opportunity to highlight the cleanest and most socially responsible oil and gas in the world.
  • Skip the lectures. The drumbeat of “wake-up call” and “failed policy” narratives coming out of old-school industry executives smacks of “I told you so” and wastes the moment.
  • Resist election-year politics. Playing politics is comforting but misses the opportunity to reframe. Let’s encourage our political allies to emphasize the climate and socially responsible focus of our industry, rather than suggesting that it no longer matters (or never did).

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Both of These Things Are True

By Tisha Schuller