OTC: What we have here is a failure to communicate

With Congress and the White House tackling energy policy in a way not seen in many years, how the energy industry gets its message out to the public and policymakers is taking priority at the conference this year. Thus the panel discussion “Improving Communication among consumers, academia, NGOs, Oil Companies and Government.”
As Roger Ballentine of Green Strategies noted, “There’s a tremendous disconnect, or at least a wide variety of opinions, about what to do about energy policy. One of the great divides is a question of whether what we’re experiencing at this moment is structural or cyclical change in energy.”
The industry would like it to be cyclical (there’s some comfort in the idea that good times will come again no matter how crazy and confusing the present is) but Ballentine thinks there are some very big structural changes this time.
Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute seems to think it’s mainly an issue of the public not having good facts.
“Once we get back to the facts, we can get back to a reality-based discussion,” Gerard said. To that end API is trying to bring its message to people through new mediums, such as the social networking site Facebook.com, via Twitter and via cell phone text messaging (text the word “energy” to 61399 and you can get signed up for future energy trivia, surveys etc. via API).
Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Association notes that what many people fail to appreciate is that we’re all consumers and that any changes in energy legislation will impact all of us in the end.
“[Commercial truckers] are not recreational drivers, not benevolent businesses that will absorb the cost of fuel increases. No one is out there just eating the costs,” but rather they will be incorporated into the total cost of goods, Graves said.
Jason Grumet, executive director of the National Council on Energy Policy notes that the public is pretty busy and has limited bandwidth to consider energy policy questions. That’s why most of the public’s attention wanders between “trance and hysteria” on gasoline prices.
The fact that Congress is focusing on many parts of energy policy at a time when prices are actually relatively low is unusual, Grumet said, and should be seen as a good sign that the big problems have a better chance of being addressed this time around.
And Marvin Odum, president of Shell Oil Co. said he thinks “rhetoric is seriously getting in the way” of constructive discussions about policy. Odum thinks too little attention is being given to the notion that even with the most optimistic renewable energy plans coming to fruition, by 2050 the world will still be using more oil and gas than it is today.
“And if we’re serious about [climate change issues] there needs to be a price put on carbon” and an acknowledgment that “energy will cost more.”

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