Direct Talk

Warren Martin

Warren Martin

Executive Director

Warren Martin provides periodic messages dedicated to topics related to the oil & natural gas industry and how they impact our lives. Check back regularly for new articles and videos.

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Enery & Environment

(1 min. 50 sec. video)

Energy Perspective: A Fireside Chat

President Trump is not the first to utilize alternative media to bypass the press. Between 1933 and 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt held a series of radio fireside chats to bypass the press. When it comes to perspectives on energy, we are overdue a fireside chat. A tweet might grab headlines, but a discussion provides understanding into the future of energy.

If your only information source on energy is the mainstream media, you would think we are on the precipice of converting from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The statistics being reported are incredible. Many people are convinced fossil fuels are quickly being phased out and renewables are the immediate future.

The greatest advancement in renewables has come in the form of electric production. Those advancements grab the headlines and drive the energy conversation. Yet, electricity has little impact in transportation, industry or heating of homes and buildings.

The key to a good fireside chat is obviously firewood; which is also the key to a realistic energy perspective. Bioenergy provides 10.3% of the world’s energy (IEA). While this does include ethanol and other biofuels, 85% is consumed (primarily in the form of firewood, charcoal or animal dung) for cooking and heating in developing countries. (J.P. Morgan Energy Outlook 2017)

In the mid-1990’s I was working in Pakistan. I watched children follow water buffaloes waiting for them to defecate. They would mix the dung with grass and run home to stick it on their houses until it dried. It was used to cook their meals and heat their homes. These types of biofuels account for 8.5% of the worlds energy production. Firewood alone accounts for 7% of the world’s energy.

In other words, more energy is still being produced by these types of biofuels than by any alternative source to fossil fuels. That includes wind, solar, nuclear and hydroelectric. No alternative has yet surpassed firewood as a source of energy. Renewables such as wind turbines and solar account for less than 2% of the world’s energy. Firewood is by far the most damaging type of energy for our environment through deforestation, smoke inhalation and emissions. Today, 2.7 billion people (40% of the population) still depend on these biofuels for cooking and heating.

I’m all for viable alternative energy sources. We should continue to develop, research and implement them. We need them for the future. The US Energy Information Administration predicts that energy consumption will grow by at least 48% of current levels by 2040. It also predicts in 2040 that 78% of energy will continue to be produced by fossil fuels.

We must understand the vital role oil and natural gas has played, currently serves and will continue to provide for our society to advance. It allows humanity to rise out of the third world, create a diverse and technologically advanced society, and improves our health, environment and lifestyle.

We should be discussing alternative sources of energy. We should also be discussing how the fossil fuel industry is the driving force behind any advancements made in the renewable energy field. It provides the reliability to bring those other sources online and the energy for industrial production of those technologies. We should be discussing how oil and natural gas are essential, reliable and beneficial for the future of our world.

Re-Framing The Conversation

This past month several articles were published about a newly discovered memo from 2012 that discussed how environmentalists should work to deceive the media (and the public) despite their being no evidence for their claims, and sometimes in spite of strong evidence debunking their claims. However, one of the most important aspects of the published memo — how they sought to frame the issue — was neglected in much of the reporting.

In an article from, reporter Andrew Follett stated, “The memo instructs environmentalists to focus on attacking any scientific papers that disagree with their conclusions while getting any anti-fracking research ‘popularized in the media.’ It also suggests focusing on emotional and relatable issues, such as mandating fracking be located far away from schools.” (Italics added)

The reality is the environmentalists have been effective in engaging the media and the public because they have been able to connect their message to emotional and relatable issues. It is also apparent that while environmentalist organizations focus on a vast array of different specific issues, when it comes to the fossil fuel industry, their strategy, language, approach and message is singular.

There is a lesson to be learned from the publication of this memo. While it would be easy to focus on what we can learn about the environmentalist organizations’ ethics, perhaps it would be of greater benefit to the oil and natural gas industry to focus on what we can learn. How we can more effectively communicate about our industry to the media and public.

First, it is vital that we connect with people on issues that are important to them. Let’s face it; we live in a increasingly self-interested world. People care about what impacts them directly. To engage the hearts and minds of the public, we must connect with them on issues they genuinely care about and that are emotional and relatable.

In other words, we need to do a better job conversing with people about our industry in terms of their everyday life. The clothes they wear, medicines they take, food on the table, shoes on their kids feet and their very quality of life are dependent on the oil and natural gas industry. We need to move the conversation beyond the price at the pump. We need to move it beyond broad discussions on energy. We need to bring the conversation into the home. We need to make it about individual people and how they benefit from the industry in every aspect of their life.

Second, we need singularity. We all need to be a part of the conversation in our communities about how our industry impacts the lives of people. The oil and natural gas industry has done more to address environmental concerns than any other industry in history. The energy, resources and products we provide for the world have enabled economic prosperity, increased quality of life, created an explosion of innovation and a cleaner, safer world for our children and grandchildren. This is the conversation we need to be having in our communities.

Are there issues of concern that need to be addressed? Certainly. However, they need to be addressed first and foremost from the framework that the oil and natural gas industry is incredibly beneficial to the world.

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