Participants (in alpha order)
-Shane Boyd, VP of corporate communications, Devon Energy
-Rebecca Lowell Edwards, CCO, GE Oil & Gas
-Michael Kehs, EVP, global energy practice, Hill+Knowlton Strategies
-Dick Mullinax, global head, energy practice, FleishmanHillard
-Scott Peterson, SVP of communications, Nuclear Energy Institute
-Linda Rozett, VP of communications, American Petroleum Institute
-Dave Samson, GM of public affairs, Chevron
-Liz Sidoti, head of US communications, BP
-Karen Tripp, VP of communications and public affairs, Phillips 66
-Matt Wagner, chair, US public affairs, Edelman
Steve Barrett (PRWeek): The energy sector touches everyone, but it is a complex industry few fully grasp. How do communicators in the space facilitate broader comprehension?
Dave Samson (Chevron): There is a tremendous gap between rhetoric and reality. In our industry, we have to deal with a lot of the rhetoric driven by the US and Western Europe, where people have the luxury of access. However, if you look around the world, the view on energy is not universally negative. In some parts of the world, people really embrace it and see its value.
If you step back ten years ago, we did a bad job telling our story. People didn’t know we were the world’s largest industry, didn’t understand energy’s ubiquity in their lives, and viewed it through a very narrow lens, which was largely the price at the pump. Over the last decade, though, this sector has begun to engage much more actively. Communicators in this sector must go out and talk about what we do – and not be apologetic about it.
Linda Rozett (American Petroleum Institute [API]): As a trade association, we’re not talking about a specific brand, but rather the issue of energy, its use and production.
I see the API’s role as a content creator. Our job is to identify, create, and distribute it. From that perspective, we face the same challenges as media entities. It’s no longer just a couple of reporters to focus on. There are thought leaders everywhere with whom we must communicate.
My goal is to keep the conversation away from a partisan divide on energy. I’m talking to people in the broad middle who are more receptive to a fact-based dialogue about the US energy industry and what our needs as a country are going forward.
Scott Peterson (Nuclear Energy Institute [NEI]): We are dealing with a lot of thought leaders who don’t have the years of experience in the sector. That only heightens the importance of content development and execution. We must use data to understand where people go for content. Fortunately, we have tools that we didn’t possess even five years ago to communicate directly.
Also key to remember: your content has to be relevant to the news cycle, but must also touch on issues your audience cares about. You must advance those issues as much as possible and give them the content they’re looking for in advance of when they need it.
Karen Tripp (Phillips 66): Establishing the credibility that will position your content in the strongest possible light is of paramount importance. This is where third-party subject-matter experts come in. It could be a leader from a major brand in another sector that works with you or perhaps the chair at a major university, but those individuals help give you the credibility to overcome negative perceptions.
Shane Boyd (Devon Energy): Much of the dialogue in this sector takes place one-on-one – and a lot of it isn’t coming from PR people. It’s the folks on the ground – in the trucks or on the job sites – that people will come up to and ask questions. These folks are ready to educate everyday people about the energy industry. It is truly our most powerful tool.
Michael Kehs (Hill+Knowlton Strategies): We must empower those employees to go forth in their own spheres of influence, talk to people – whether it’s their backyard barbecue, at a Little League game, or at church – and explain what we actually do. This can nip away at those negative industry stereotypes.
Liz Sidoti (BP): In the past, this industry has been reticent to engage and tell its story. We are currently in a media and political environment where many are taking advantage of the fact that we have a public – voters, consumers – who are uneducated about our issues because of that reticence. Pair that with a 24-7 media cycle and an increase in reporters who are not as educated on our sector as the veterans who used to populate the space and our challenge is enormous. On top of that, we have been painted as big oil for so long, which is a negative connotation.
It is imperative businesses in our industry become content creators, too, and use data-driven messaging to boost credibility.
Barrett (PRWeek): How has the BP narrative changed from the recent doomsday scenario involving Deepwater Horizon?
Sidoti (BP): We’re engaging more than ever. If we don’t tell our story, others will. But the key is using fact-based messaging. Quite honestly, that’s a model for the entire industry. It’s the only way to tell our story.
Rozett (API): For an industry as large as ours, there will always be distrust, but that doesn’t mean we have no voice in the debate. We do. Over the last decade, the industry has stepped up and become much less fearful of its own bad press.
Samson (Chevron): When I came to Chevron in 2004, I didn’t have to convince leadership about the need to engage much more proactively. I had to convince my communications peers to do so because they kept saying, "We tried to do that in the ‘80s and it didn’t work." That was a big hurdle.
Another unique challenge our industry faces is that when we come to work every day, there are other people trying to put us out of business. We’re a business that’s only as good as the lowest common denominators. And the people trying to put us out of business are well funded, much smarter than they might have been in the past, as well as much better networked and organized.
Dick Mullinax (FleishmanHillard): People tend to interpret new information to reinforce what they already believe. So when you’re dealing with activists, your challenge is intensified because they have a very strong point of view and you have to re-convince them. It’s doable, but the burden is much higher on you.
Matt Wagner (Edelman): This is such a fact-based and engineer-driven industry, the challenge is making it personal, speaking in human terms, and putting a face on a story.
Energy companies have learned they need to show, not just tell. They need to build stories, not just push studies. It goes back to engagement and content, but it needs to be made personal for people so they understand the issues, as opposed to just being told they should think about them.
Mullinax (Fleishman): The standards companies have are much greater than the pressure groups that just tell stories and nobody is really fact-checking them. However, if a company makes a misstatement or miscalculation, there’s a bigger penalty to pay.
Barrett (PRWeek): Liz, please speak to the strategy of having Geoff Morrell, SVP of US comms and external affairs, go on 60 Minutes last year.
Sidoti (BP): This was all part of an overarching strategy to not only engage more, but also to use as many channels as we can in an effective way. A 60 Minutes interview made sense within that.
From that and since then, especially now right around the five-year mark since the oil spill, we’ve found that we have to judge media outlets and reporters as we make those decisions. We make our choices on a case-by-case basis, assessing reach, credibility, and a host of factors. And it’s not a matter of whether or not to engage, but just what level. We’re engaged across the board, but not everyone will get that interview with Geoff or CEO Bob Dudley.
Of course, it’s not just media interviews. It’s a combination of public appearances and what we do on our earned, owned, and paid channels. And, much like Geoff, our employees are our best advocates. We arm them with the facts and resources they need to talk to family members at a time when there’s going to be some focus on us.
Tales of technology
Rebecca Lowell Edwards (GE Oil & Gas): People don’t automatically think about GE when they think about oil and energy, which is a great opportunity for us. As a tech provider, a lot of people – activists, concerned citizens, or even our customers – don’t expect our voice to be out there boldly and actively, but in this environment it’s exactly what is needed.
Technology is going to play a huge role is this sector. Lucky for us, GE engineers are committed to a lot of those technological solutions and they happen to be people who live in the same neighborhoods as those concerned citizens and activists. These individuals are perfect to tell a compelling, yet simple story about the problems they see, the solutions they’re actively engaged in, and what the outcomes look like. Basically, we can really set a whole new conversation and introduce a set of aspirational ideas for what’s possible.
Wagner (Edelman): This industry doesn’t give itself enough credit for the technology it brings to the market. Energy is not a sunset industry. It’s a sunrise industry.
Rozett (API): It is so important to create an atmosphere in this country where there is a middle conversation. It shouldn't be two extremes yelling at each other. There must be a place where people can come forward and talk about the technologies they’re developing for oil and natural gas development and not be seen as somehow aiding the evil empire. People can’t be afraid to step forward. The dialogue should not be so polarized.
Boyd (Devon): Everyone is a heavy user of energy. Consumers demand and need our products. With that, everyone who works in the sector, including communicators, have a lot of enthusiasm and pride in what we do. We owe it to our communities and stakeholders to help them understand what we’re doing, answer their questions, and be accountable when there’s a misunderstanding or disagreement.
Peterson (NEI): That highlights the complexity of our jobs. On the one hand, we have a consumer audience that expects reliable, cheap energy that will drive their everyday conveniences. Then there’s the other audience that is focused on what will drive the industry to the future, the technology developments, the policy, the behind-the-scenes details consumers won’t ever see. It’s a challenge to set your communications agenda and use all your platforms to mesh those messages together.
Samson (Chevron): When I came to this industry, two things really struck me. One, the pride those who work in energy have for what they do. Two, no industry uses more advanced forms of technology than the energy sector, whether it’s robotics, imaging, moleculars, and so on. That’s the story to tell. And as technology evolves, we can engage a whole other group of stakeholders the energy industry historically hasn’t.
Edwards (GE): To further Dave’s point, companies in this sector so often do great projects together. We can get a little bit bolder telling those stories hand-in-hand. It also brings a bit more humility to the conversation.
We also need to transform our functions from being so production oriented and press release generating to focus more on empowering others to tell the stories. Communicators need not be the only ones telling stories.
Tripp (Phillips 66): Community engagement is so crucial, particularly well ahead of any activity you conduct. It’s important to focus on the good things that will come to the communities you work in because some of your strongest advocates are there. It’s in our best interests to make sure our communities are resilient.
Mullinax (Fleishman): As communicators in this space, we must never forget the high purpose the energy industry serves, which sometimes gets lost under the weight of criticism that generates a bit of hopelessness about the futility of getting such a complex message through. I find it useful to clearly state that high purpose in a way that makes sense for the business.
Wagner (Edelman): Energy companies, most companies really, are good at telling their business story, their product story, even their technology story. It’s talking about the broader societal benefits where they find it more difficult. And since no industry provides more benefits than energy, this is a particularly poignant concept.
Edwards (GE): Some of the confidence we’ve developed in telling our story and being more active has come from countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where the local content rules mean we have to combine commercial interests with social interests. We bring back the learning of what it takes to engage in a 360-degree manner with stakeholders around those two drivers. In turn, we can tell a story in North Dakota about our last mile fueling solutions with the same construct of commercial and social being united and driving outcomes.
Kehs (H+K): We are not putting out a STEM curriculum to the public. We have to show people we care before they care. Every week, a city the size of Dallas is being added to the world’s population. Every one of these people deserves the benefits of affordable, reliable energy that could empower their own brilliant creations and their own better life. That is a high purpose. Those human stories just might offset some of the more horrific theories about what could happen under the worst circumstances for our industry.
Samson (Chevron): Amid all this, the importance of listening must be underscored. We must understand people’s concerns and if we don’t listen they will never want to hear our story. There is no substitute for direct engagement. Sitting across the table from somebody is often the best way to find that crucial common ground.
Barrett (PRWeek): What is the best way to shape the sector’s story amid so much negative narrative?
Sidoti (BP): The energy industry is the foundation of modern society, but you still have to tell a story that is relevant to individuals. We have all this great technology, but how do we relate it to everyday lives? Exxon’s recent "egg campaign" [part of the company’s broader Energy Lives Here initiative that traces the steps of how eggs get to your stove to boil them] was very effective at focusing on that higher purpose and distilling it down to how it impacts an individual.
Mullinax (Fleishman): It has become a trend for sector communicators to become less particular about the entry point into a conversation and more focused on reaching out to stakeholders in ways that are meaningful to them, thus building relationships and understanding.
Samson (Chevron): We are the largest gas producer in Bangladesh. It is a country of 140 million people crammed into the landmass the size of Wisconsin. In the summer, the snow melts in the Himalayas and half the country floods. You have 140 million people and only 7% of them have access to any reliable form of electricity.
You want to talk about our industry’s higher purpose, it should be making sure everyone has access to the same kind of affordable, reliable forms of energy that people in the US and other developed nations do. That’s what our sector needs to stand for.
Peterson (NEI): Energy is really the basis of what we can do in foreign policy right now. The US is in a position, with the ability to export oil and natural gas, reactor and other technologies, to take the pressure off a lot of these countries that have been dependent on bigger nations’ energy supplies.
Barrett (PRWeek): How have things changed on the agency side in terms of creating content for your energy clients?
Mullinax (Fleishman): The unprecedented availability of research and analytics has been a huge help. Not only do we have all this great information about what people are saying and thinking about energy, but we also have the technology to capture it and put it in a useable form for various audiences. And to Dave’s point about listening, technology has enabled us to become much better listeners and, in turn, glean valuable insights.
Kehs (H+K): It has become even more important for energy companies to be thoroughly engaged with their publics, stakeholders, and policymakers to show they are running responsible operations and doing the best job possible in this current price environment. Safety remains the paramount point and a high level of engagement is crucial in our communities because there is a lot of misinformation.
Wagner (Edelman): You have to understand what kind of content people want and what kind of content people share. Fewer people go directly to websites anymore. They are directed to them from social networks. You must understand what content works in that environment – more visual, more short form, more shareable, more findable. And this is the case whether you’re talking about everyday consumers or members of the media.
Tripp (Phillips 66): There is still demand out there for greater depth of information. You obviously need content that’s easily shareable with millions, but there will always be people who want the long explanations and you must provide that, too. Let’s say someone wants to understand fracking better. The quick, easy-to-digest infographic or short video works for many, but you should also provide links to the longer paper and video available to the teacher, researcher, or anyone who is curious and seeking depth of detail.
Sidoti (BP): Providing that bite-sized information is a particular challenge in this sector because it’s hard to boil down such complex subject matters. You must start with a foundation of clear, consistent, and concise. It has to be basic. In journalism, you often think about how you would tell a story to your mother. This is not that different. How would you explain energy to your mom, brother, or sister? That starts us on the road to creating consumable information.
Mullinax (Fleishman): Different forms of information have different purposes. That first wave is just to get somebody’s attention. Then, as you draw them in to a link or some other bit of information, you have the opportunity to build credibility. It’s not just a claim at that point. You’re showing it.
Edwards (GE): Dave mentioned listening before. A key part that makes listening work is the readiness to respond in a proactive, coordinated manner. This is vital in content, too. If you hear from any stakeholder that he or she wants certain bits of information or the views from a particular individual, if you’re prepared to supply it to them quickly, the value in that exchange is worth so much.
Wagner (Edelman): One of the more exciting possibilities is to find ways to inject yourself into conversations that aren’t about energy at the start. We have people monitoring social conversations or news in other sectors looking for ways to become part of that dialogue.
You always want to start a conversation on your terms, but that actually limits opportunities. This monitoring strategy enables you to spot opportunities and take advantage of them.
Peterson (NEI): Another task communicators in this space have is developing the personas that can engage in these conversations. We’ve had great success working with our subject matter experts, particularly those in their 20s or 30s, because they are already geared toward this. It’s natural for them to jump on a Twitter feed, put out a blog, have them produce a video, or give a TEDx Talk. We really want these individuals out there in the social space. In fact, we want at least 10% of their jobs to be dedicated to doing just that.
Barrett (PRWeek): How important is it to work together to tell a mutual industry story versus looking out for the interests of your own organization?
Tripp (Phillips 66): The major consideration is where to put resources based upon the need at the moment. There are certainly times when it might be very important to have a national statement about the importance of oil, natural gas, exporting, whatever it happens to be. That’s where all industry entities must come together. But when in the midst of a huge CapEx [capital expenditure] project, you have to be ready to switch resources there. But this is truly an industry where all audiences have a stake in it, so the need to work together is certainly high.
Rozett (API): Companies in the energy sector are unique in their commitment to being very competitive with each other on a business level, but understanding the need to stand together as an industry and work together for a common cause.
And this carries over to the associations, too. At the beginning of this year, we put out our State of American Energy report. Other trade groups submitted content for it over which they had control. And it wasn’t pay to play. It went very well and everyone played nicely in the sandbox.
You have to remember the key issue in all this: the world needs more energy of all types. It’s not a zero-sum game. The better everyone understands that, the better we’ll be in terms of our public policy and the direction we take as a country. And that’s something all entities in the energy sector share. I don’t need to wave a flag to get people to not think about nuclear, wind, or solar. Those are not my opponents.
Peterson (NEI): There is tremendous value in energy diversity, about $200 billion a year to consumers. That is clearly understood by everyone in the industry and it fosters sharing among companies in competitive markets around issues such as safety and best practices. Such a focus has been longstanding in nuclear energy, but it’s very apparent in other parts of the sector, too. It’s job number one for everyone in energy and all entities work together to make sure we’re moving in that direction. I don’t know if it’s unique to the energy sector, but it’s certainly a calling card for it.
Edwards (GE): An issue such as developing the talent pipeline is a perfect example of being successful having it both ways. Competing entities certainly work together to attract more young people to the sector. It’s in everyone’s best interest to have a bigger, better talent pool and the improved mindshare that comes with it. Of course, that doesn’t mean I am not going to compete vigorously with other companies for that talent. But if the talent pool is expanded, everybody gains.
Samson (Chevron): The reality in our industry is that we partner on lots of things and have been doing so for decades on numerous projects that are huge in complexity and cost. Seldom will you find a major project anywhere in the world with a single company driving it.
Kehs (H+K): Whether it’s nuclear, oil, gas, coal, whatever, energy is an industry that has the long view. We have to think decades, if not half-centuries, down the road and that’s something most consumer audiences struggle to get their head around. This is a sector willing to make those types of investments in capital expenditures. Similar investments must be made in communications expenditures so we can take that long view. The facts will win out, but only if we support them vigorously and consistently.
Winning the vote
Barrett (PRWeek): What role will energy play in the upcoming election?
Rozett (API): We saw it play a huge role in 2012, when both the sitting President and his Republican challenger repeatedly sought to position themselves as the oil and natural gas candidate. The API certainly worked hard to make the issue prominent through campaigns such as Vote 4 Energy. We’re gearing up to do it again for 2016. Specifically, we’re trying to facilitate an inclusive, broad, fact-based conversation around energy in this country.
Kehs (H+K): Iran is going to be a huge issue in the course of the 2016 discussion, however that plays out. It will be interesting to see if the public could begin to connect the dots if we do in fact move forward with an accord with them and come off of the sanctions. We will essentially free Iranian oil and gas under the global market while we have a ban on crude oil export in the US market. There’s a counterintuitive nature of that from a geopolitical, economic, and just a common sense standpoint that I’m hoping will throw a 40-year problem into sharp relief and we’ll be able to move forward with freeing American crude so that it’s not discounted in our own country and forcing the producers to take less value for it.
Sidoti (BP): In the past, election-year debates have been the typical ethanol, drill baby drill, independence, Keystone, those buzzwords. The energy conversation will undoubtedly be significant in 2016. However, the issues and buzzwords won’t be the same as we’ve heard in the past because the landscape has changed so significantly.
President Obama is actually laying the foundation for that conversation to take place. His legacy on climate change and the issue the EPA is pushing right now lays the groundwork for that conversation to happen, as well as foreign policy. Even if the issues are the same, the context has changed. It’s not the same conversation.
Wagner (Edelman): In every election, the top issue is the economy and jobs. Energy’s role in both those areas is huge. It can’t help but play a huge part in the discussion. The industry has done an increasingly strong job in explaining just how vital a source it is for jobs, growth, and revenue.
Kehs (H+K): Another aspect of the conversation, whether at the state or federal level, will be the notion of local control. We’re seeing opponents of oil and gas resource development using that as the means by which to impose bans or other restrictions on production. The industry will need to be clearly stepped up and engaged in all of those discussions.
Samson (Chevron): That’s a huge point. Energy issues are not only playing out on a national level. They’re playing out is state capitals across the US, as well as on a very local and municipal level.
That has been a change for industry communicators. We typically engaged at a national level or a state level. We’re not as effective engaging on the ground level. We have made strides, but that’s a huge opportunity and responsibility for us going forward. We won’t be successful unless we can engage at a local level.
Peterson (NEI): To accentuate that point, it’s true many organizations in the sector are focusing more and more on the state level because of a lot of inaction in Washington, certainly on energy policy.
Samson (Chevron): A key part of this is engaging your employees on the frontline. We’ve spoken about how vital technology is to this industry and even to storytelling. However, it is just as crucial in activating our people on the ground.
Our opponents are very good at using social platforms to create critical mass to go after us in a particular community. We need to use the same technology to activate and mobilize our own people. And we need to use technology to better predict the actions of our critics. Our opponents, because they want to mobilize people, tend to foreshadow what they intend to do and where. We have to be a step ahead of them.
Handling the pressure
Steve Barrett (PRWeek): There were a couple of high-profile stories last year led by pressure groups and media outlets. For example, Greenpeace leaking Edelman’s strategy documents on TransCanada to a newspaper. How do you respond in such situations?
Wagner (Edelman): Speaking about dealing with the pressure, without highlighting any specific instance, you must be willing to engage and have a rational conversation with folks. You have to point out that some people aren’t interested in that and let people decide for themselves what that means in terms of their argument.
Our key job is to listen to people. It’s also our job to recognize those who simply won’t listen to us. We can move the conversation and communication to those willing to engage in constructive debate. And frankly, this same philosophy applies to dealing with media in such cases.
Peterson (NEI): The Greenpeace story generated attention because it was TransCanada working with Edelman. However, you rarely see a reporter generate a story about a pressure group using a PR firm. Such relationships absolutely exist, but you never see them reported.
Rozett (API): We get a lot of pressure from groups who are shocked we spend money to reach the public on our issues. And the effectiveness of those efforts is also questioned.
They are effective, but advertising is just one engagement channel, albeit an important one. I’m not ashamed of it and there is nothing nefarious about it. But it is one piece of an overall communications effort the industry is supporting in order to engage in a broad public conversation about energy. Our taxes and our spending are a matter of public record. If anyone wants to point anything out about it, I won’t shy away.
Mullinax (Fleishman): It’s interesting that the same reporters or groups who are critical about ads or any type of communication will only be more critical if a company in the energy sector does not participate at all in a public conversation. Pressure groups will criticize no matter what. The opportunity is to maintain your outreach efforts.
Rozett (API): Associations in the sector do have a particular role, though, in that we are not publicly traded companies. We don’t have the same kind of pressure points as an individual company. Whether it’s API, Scott’s group, or whatever sector, associations have the chance to stand up for the industry and tell the story.
Samson (Chevron): The numerous channels now available certainly give companies a chance to create share of voice. We have a publication in Richmond, California, called The Richmond Standard, along with a community-based website. There is a section called Chevron Speaks. It’s clear we pay for it. We have a reporter covering community news and it has more readership in Richmond than the San Francisco Chronicle or the Contra Costa Times.
We know this based on site traffic and the number of stories we break that the mainstream press picks up. And it’s not the stories we break on our industry, but on the community. Anybody can create relevant content today if they understand the people they’re trying to reach. Go out there and create your own share of voice.
Boyd (Devon): When it comes to our organizations doing the right thing or being advocates for doing the right thing, it would be indefensible for us not to.
Peterson (NEI): Energy companies have the right tools to reach out to the people in those communities, whether through community action panels, open houses, or simply using their employees as ambassadors in those communities.
Every two years, we survey residents within 10 miles of every nuclear plant in America. We look to measure favorability, safety, and reputation. The company representatives are also members of these communities. They live there. Their kids play Little League with neighbors’ kids. They go to the same churches. It’s an ongoing personal relationship. To get feedback based on that is so useful.
Steve Barrett (PRWeek): What of the Fukushima crisis? That must have changed people’s views on nuclear energy?
Peterson (NEI): The relationship that was already forged with that community was key in ensuring it didn’t change that much. As long as you’re demonstrating action and you’re willing to have that dialogue with local people, it actually becomes a learning moment for them above all else.
Samson (Chevron): Yet again, that only underscores the importance of constant engagement. Energy is a topical issue at all times, whether prices are low or high. In turn, there is always the opportunity to engage in conversations. And it’s much better to do so then than in the aftermath of a disaster.
Peterson (NEI): One of the things many companies in our industry did in the first week after that accident was open up their facilities to various media outlets and let them talk to the people who were responsible for various facets of safety. That was the best thing we could have done because we were transparent. We gave them access to people who worked in the plants who were very comfortable telling that story.
Kehs (H+K): An interesting dynamic I’ve seen with almost all cases in the energy sector is the distance multiplier. The farther away you are from a facility, the more outraged you apparently become when something goes wrong there. And these angry people will come to public meetings and just scream at everyone.
Desmond Tutu famously said, "Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument." The virulent nature of debate gets in the way of the necessary civil discussion to be constructive and get anything accomplished.
Equally interesting is the irony of those activists against fossil fuels who still use fossil fuels.
Rozett (API): That ironic behavior is certainly out there among protestors, but I wouldn’t say it’s rampant. The bigger issue is individuals who act in this same ironic fashion and then use their wealth to foster a political agenda that is based on an ideology that would be soundly rejected if it would ever come up for an actual debate, which it will not.
These people exist, though, and have a platform, so we must engage with those individuals in the middle and make sure they are hearing the industry’s side of the story. And, again, the energy sector has really been very forward leaning in its communications to that end.
Mullinax (Fleishman): You don’t have to answer the questions the pressure groups want, but you do need to deal on a personal level with the mother, the father, the family who has questions related to those issues. You’ll never get the Bill McKibbens or Tom Steyers to stop spending money, but you can talk to those people who want to know and have a vested interest in answers related to those issues.
Kehs (H+K): Climate seems to be an area where the tenor of the debate has gone off the rails – on both sides. But this is obviously an issue of great importance that must be addressed in a rational way.
The theory is that we need to leave these fuels in the ground because technology will never find a better way to utilize them in a more decarbonized fashion. But just look at all the technologies that are coming out of the labs at GE, even just its new class of gas turbines. One of the best things that could happen for global warming is for GE to sell these all over the world and have these running because they really do yield extraordinary benefits in terms of efficiencies, emissions reductions, and whatnot.
The next solution on how to deal with energy may come from the African continent. It may come from places where people have had to live under completely different circumstances and therefore look at the world in a different way that brings innovation to the table. Those people need to have the means by which to develop their ideas and develop their opportunities. The energy industry makes that possible. That’s a purpose that should be celebrated.
Samson (Chevron): There are a whole range of policy issues that require measured and thoughtful discussion and debate. And it must be looked at from an environmental, economic, and energy security standpoint. It’s a three-dimensional chess game, if you will, and each part is crucial to arriving at reasonable policies that advance society.
Peterson (NEI): It’s easy for the White House to make a pronouncement on cutting carbon 30% by 2030 or for the EPA to produce a clean power plant. However, when you look at the details of all that, there is so much work still to be done if we are to get anywhere close to approaching our goals.
With the EPA’s draft of the clean power plant, a key issue is that when you get down to the state and regional market levels, they don’t monetize the low carbon value of nuclear while incenting the low carbon value of wind and solar. So what happens in states with competitive electricity markets is you have well-operating nuclear plants that were cost competitive five years ago that are threatened to shut down today partly because of the low price of natural gas, partly because of renewable subsidies, and partly because the markets aren’t structured well to recognize those attributes.
Much work is still left to do at the federal and state level if we are to be serious about going down this low carbon path, much of which simply isn’t being acknowledged right now.