There is a major gap between the realities of oil & gas and the public understanding of its fundamental importance to society. To many, filling the SUV is just a tax on driving and natural gas an overpriced monthly charge on home ownership. Few realise the sheer scale of the industry, its huge financial commitment and the dedication of the people involved in its day-to-day operations. Oilman, like banker, has become a dirty word.
All too often the reasons for the industry to make the headlines are the very negative ones, such as the human and environmental tragedy of Macondo and long before that the recently commemorated Piper Alpha disaster.
But there are another group of less tragic but headline-grabbing events such as Brent Spar, arctic drilling and fracking. What links these is the PR power of the anti-oil NGO protagonists, multi-national organisations taking the high ground with combinations of publically appealing arguments and direct action against the dirty polluting oil industry. There is little public realisation that the oil companies do not want to drill in the arctic or ultra-deep water or frac thousands of wells all of which are very high cost operations. The only reason this is happening is that there is nowhere else left to go to get the fuels we all depend on. But we live in an age of instant information which lacks analysis and where headlines are sensationalised to grab attention, not inform.
To proactively counter the negative perceptions, the global oil & gas industry needs an association to collectively address the educational requirement and lead stakeholder engagement across the energy sector. Today we have too many peripheral industry groups that lack impact on a national level let alone worldwide. The organisations that the industry is competing against for influence pool their global resources and unite in message and approach. It’s going to be very hard for the industry to ever be presented effectively if it doesn’t operate in the same way.
John Westwood, Douglas-Westwood London
+44 203 4799 505 or John.Westwood@douglaswestwood.com