Conversations: Willing is not Enough - We Must Do
- Behrooz Fattahi (2010 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- April 2010
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 12 - 14
- 2010. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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The oil and gas industry employs a large number of people around the world. The American Petroleum Institute (API) estimates that in the US alone, the oil and gas industry is one of the largest employers, supporting more than nine million jobs providing cost-competitive energy and adding more than USD 1 trillion to the US economy.
However, the measure of our industry is not only in the numbers that it employs, but more significantly is in the number of lives that it touches, and that is the entire population of our planet, roughly seven billion people. This creates a profound sense of social responsibility for us as an industry.
Without a doubt, our industry impacts the lives of almost all of us, regardless of whether we reside in developed or developing countries, in large or small urban areas, or in the remotest corners on this planet. Every day we use hundreds of products that have their roots in petroleum—the clothing we wear; equipment that we use in our work or leisure pursuits; health and beauty products; household furnishings; building materials; transportation; and many other applications. Without these products, the lifestyles and health of many, many people would be significantly different.
However, at least a segment of the general public views the activities of the oil and gas industry as incompatible with the concept of a sustainable planet. I am not certain of the extent of the sentiment or the significance of the numbers, but I have clearly heard about it from the industry leaders and the officials in many countries that I have travelled to as the SPE president. Jeane Kirkpatrick, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, once said that “Oil is a product that arouses so much passion. A lot of people have a passionate fear, or distaste, or downright hatred almost for oil. There is no other product that so many people need so badly, yet so many people believe should be produced entirely without profits.”
This is a serious matter. Public perception is an intangible asset that helps the industry attract resources, and develop a sustainable viability. We may differ on whether there is a scientific basis for this negative public opinion, but the reality is that the perception exists, and it translates into a more difficult environment for the industry to conduct its business. We, as members of the industry, need to recognize this and find ways to reverse the sentiment. Erosion of our image, I suggest, has not been due to the way we have run our business, but rather because we have behaved somewhat passively in the past, allowing unqualified others to make sweeping negative claims that portray our industry as insensitive to a sustainable planet. SPE’s energy education program is a key weapon in the fight against misinformation. Our outreach efforts that give teachers the science and facts about energy and our industry’s contributions are hugely important.
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