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Last week, Chris Tomlinson wrote a piece in the Houston Chronicle about climate change. His argument is fair. The Energy Capital’s businesses leaders are struggling with climate change. But why?
The tsunami of change is bigger than any of us.
Energy 1.0 was founded by wildcatters and risk takers, men (and very few women) who risked their lives to build something great for society. When you are creating a market, entrepreneurs move quickly, are agile, and don’t always think about the risks, well because they are taking them. Humans have since relied on the oil and gas industry to lift their economies and power man (and woman ) kind. So turning the ship isn’t like turning a light switch. It takes careful thought and approach. It also means significant investment and a pivot.
And while the argument that the oil industry has known about climate for a while is true, one could argue every industry has its own “Big Elephant” to embrace. Look at what Facebook and Google have done for privacy and democracy. How is Big Pharma contributing to drug addiction in our society? These are big challenges but we can do this by taking action and working together.
It’s not about acceptance. It’s about the enormity of the end game.
I won’t get into the debate on climate. It’s real. I believe my alma mater BP when it says we’re on an unsustainable path. I witnessed it real-time and it became very personal for me when 60 inches of rain fell in Houston and the reservoirs were opened to force flood my West side home and office. Many energy families were hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. The argument climate isn’t real is an old one. I believe the public sector and private sector have inherited a problem bigger than ourselves.
Change is hard for markets and for the people that change serves. Do people take enough care and concern for their own climate footprint? Change starts with us. It starts with people. It begins with enough people who say “enough is enough” and we want to shift the problem and solve it. It also takes a recognition that this is a massive re-engineering effort of our energy value chain that will take time and focus. This is hard for companies and people when we live quarter to quarter for earnings and are influenced by the tweets of the moment.
We are making progress but it’s slow.
So I would argue the fossil industry is shifting significantly. While I worked at Shell and BP, we published scenarios and invested in technologies and research. Just in the last five years, I’ve seen the shift from the words “global warming” to “climate change” to “low-carbon” or “net-zero carbon”. The fossil fuel industry has become more socially sensitive and very concerned about the way forward.
Socializing isn’t enough.
It takes a while for us to form new beliefs and ideas about how to progress. Humans are very predictable. Just look at the change curve. We’re all on one in some way or another. Once we socialize our new beliefs it’s time to act. My belief is while the industry is taking action on investments and technology, we aren’t talking about or taking action yet on the real solution: the people who will deliver the energy transition.
Who will lead and execute the energy transition?
So while there has, indeed, been a good deal of focus on technologies, policies and economics to apply, I’m most concerned about the workforce to deliver these unique challenges. When you look at kids like Greta Thunberg (who has managed to reach my 8 year old’s classroom despite lacking access to a phone), it makes me wonder why we aren’t harnessing the passion of our children to help us look at this transition? All energy companies should be. Why aren’t we employing more inclusive mindsets and beliefs into our teams? Why aren’t we hiring women and people of color, LGBTQ, and all generations to solve this problem? After years of layoffs, experienced hands are retiring and leaving. We won’t “AI” everything and will need human energy to drive forward.
Our lawmakers also need to understand that isn’t an either/or strategy. We need all forms of energy. I told Congressional leaders this back in February when I testified on the green workforce of the future. We cannot take unilateral decisions and remove energy forms from the table. Removing fossil fuels completely is an absurd notion, however reducing it with time and using bridge fuels is key. What does work is working together across the private and public sector without politics.
Markets and people (you and I) make change, not politicians or industries.
It comes down to..what are you doing? How are you accountable? What are you doing at home and at work? How are you including yourself in this transition? How are you educating yourself on the reality of the work at hand? Are you driving solutions? Remember activity does not equal progress.
Who is hiring for the energy transition?
We know, because we care. I left my chair to do something about diversity and climate change. You see because I believe our environment plus equality equals a new economy. Check out our jobs platform at Experience Energy. We’re all in this together. We need all forms and all people to come together to solve the greatest challenge of our lifetime. Join us in this journey. Experience energy in a different way. Sign up to get jobs, get our newsletter, post your jobs or hire us to help you create a rockstar culture that attracts the best and brightest.