If you have read my columns for a while, you know that for many years, I have been saying "all energy is political." Let me assure you, this reality has not changed. Particularly when tied into discussions concerning climate change, global warming and similar subjects, energy discussions are more political than ever.
Think about it--what are the drivers of concern to any company? The number one driver is growth of sales, followed closely by the related topic of besting the competition. Can you give me one good reason why any company would buck the generally perceived ideas about energy consumption, energy's relation to climate change, or anything else in this area that might go against the, shall we say, "common knowledge" in society?
Suppose a learned scientist at a major energy company, using the best science known to humankind, develops irrefutable evidence that there is absolutely no connection between fossil fuel consumption and global warming? Do you think that company is going to tell the world about it? Of course not, that would be like a tobacco company announcing (without government "encouragement") that nicotine is addictive and cigarettes cause cancer. The public relations department will not be notified of this breakthrough; the scientist will probably be banished to an oil rig in the North Sea.
So, we see advertisements in print, on television and in other media, that send the message that energy company XYZ is the leader in developing products and services to mitigate global warming. All of this is applauded by XYZ's Board of Directors, for their job is (a) to look out for the stock price and (b) make sure no bad news (which could tank the stock price) ever escapes from the hallowed halls of XYZ.
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Now let's look at this from another point of view. Ms. Public is already awake and feels she is savvy about energy, environment, global climate change conditions and so forth. She reads only the popular press that agrees with her views--anything else is "fake news" or fringe writings from nut jobs. For a long time, she didn't think much about energy company XYZ, but recently she has noticed their ads, indeed their quasi-public service announcements, about what XYZ is doing to mitigate climate change. She smiles--and although still not quite trusting them, she is encouraged that they are finally awakening and becoming responsible.
XYZ's propaganda, oops, I mean message, is actually reinforcing the generally perceived state of environmental conditions for all of us. We feel good about it and we buy our energy needs from XYZ because they are doing something. XYZ admitted a link between climate change and energy usage, confirming for Ms. Public what she knew all along (about time, she thinks).
Likewise, ABC University is in cahoots with XYZ's posture, for ABC is all about raising more money. Doing real scientific investigation has become secondary. Just like XYZ, they don't want to do anything to upset the gravy train. We send our kids and grandkids to ABC because they "get it."
Now Ms. Public is being reinforced on all sides that her views are correct, that major enterprises have seen the light and are marching in lockstep with her views and objectives. "1984" has arrived.
Notice there was not one test tube dirtied to make everyone feel good about energy here. Oh, there may be some scientists that still have consciences and would like to see a little more reassuring work, but just to make sure they know where their thinking must be, they discreetly post a January shot of aforementioned North Sea oil rig in their cubicles.
This, children, is how we feel good about conditions around us, including energy trends in 2019, without ever bothering to dust off the gas chromatograph or electron microscope.
I hope your safety program is grounded more in reality than what I have just described. Work at safety-- broken bones or lacerations are not imagined, they are real.
Be safe and we will talk next week.
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