A Strategic Approach to Stakeholder Communications
CAPP Speaker Series featuring Deryck Spooner: April 1st, 2015
Below is the speech and presentation by Deryck Spooner, Senior Director for External Mobilization for the American Petroleum Institute in Washington D.C. The entire speaker series video, featuring the audio for Deryck's speech can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GuIxc0aVLE
Deryck Spooner – Thank you for inviting me to come from the U.S. to wonderful Calgary, the weather is beautiful. I actually didn’t bring a coat or nothing, so I’m really happy about that. I think in D.C. now it’s about 60 degrees, very close to what you guys have here. Looking across the audience, I am very excited because I do see a lot of young people like myself, which means things are changing within the oil and gas industry, and that’s a good thing. I also see a lot of females in the industry and it’s important that we do diversify our industry. I’m really excited about that.
What we are going to talk about today is about passion, and how do you sort of leverage, how do you motivate people based on that passion, and right off the bat I can see how you guys were motivated here with your passion to eat a free lunch. It’s a pretty significate thing, I came all the way from the U.S. for a free lunch, so you can imagine how passionate I am about free lunch. But what I want you guys to do is, well before I jump in, let me take a minute to tell you exactly what I’m going to try to do.
First, I want to apologize for my accent, I’m originally from the Caribbean but I grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., so it’s kind of messed up in terms of the language there. Also, I talk fast, I’m not a salesman, but I do speak pretty fast. I do apologize. I have a short amount of time to talk to you about grassroots organizations and grassroots campaigns. Something that really takes at least a semester, so I am condensing a semester worth of work into about a half hour. I’ll spend some time talking about passion, talking about how you harness it, and then move from there on to understanding how passion translates into the U.S. political process, and then move into more targeted strategy for how you build a grassroots program, and then finish up with looking at API and how API, the methods API utilized to build it’s own program for the last five years and then finish up with a video that really gets into what exactly we do.
So real quick, I want you guys to stop and think about passion and what it really means to you. What makes you passionate, in broad terms, it’s your fate, it’s your politics, it’s your family, and in some cases with regards to issue it’s about health, health care issues and it’s about education. The quick key question here is how do you, what motivates you into that passion. In some cases, if you look at school, your kids at school because of that passionate you have for education, it is a lot easier for you to spend a lot of time volunteering at the school where your kids go to school, it’s a lot easier to give money out of your pocket to a library that is being built, just being really mad at the politicians and really going and protesting some of the challenges you see in the educational system around the country here in Canada and the US. So, passion, what it really does, it really motivates you to act. And what I’m going to do today is spend some time helping you understand how you can harness that passion to be able to take advantage of it. What is passion? It is an intense, driving and overarching, over mastering feeling of conviction.
Here you have the President of the United States of America, if it wasn’t for passion, I would argue that it would be very difficult for us to have the first African American President to be elected in the U.S. People were very passionate about this. We had a great opportunity to change the history in America. We had people from all walks of life in America that actually supported this presidency and it’s again because of the passion.
Passion tends to drive you, to take some action like I said, no necessarily the right action, but it does drive you to take action. To go to the streets, we had some of our opposition decide to wrap a fake pipeline around the white house, they were very passionate about it. It came from all parts of the country, and sometimes, it causes you to make a fool of yourself, but in the very least you have that passion. Our goal is to figure out how to harness that passion.
So one things we know is that our opposition has it, we know they really, really have it. The question for us as industry, is how do we get it? How do we get a passion? How do we harness that passion? One of things that we know in our industry, is that the value that we bring to the countries that we represent, it’s pretty significant. But in America, most American’s have no clue about the value of the oil and gas industry, outside of the fact that they go to the gas pump, and pump that gas into the car. They have no clue of the value of oil and gas. For us, we have to show the value, we have to talk about all the other things that fossil fuels are responsible for. The fertilizers that help get our food to the table, the makeup that women use to look beautiful, the hair products, the phone, the cell phones, the iPad. All those different things that would not be part of us and be a part of our world without fossil fuels. So we have to find a way to be able to harness and to explain that passion to people. So we would be able to benefit from it.
I think another key thing for us is, passion is a big piece of the political process, and we have to understand politically, and issue wise how we are able to deal with it. I’m going to spend some time now really getting into the U.S. political system. To really understand how passionate most folks in the U.S. are about politics. Now when you look at the presidency in the US, we have 538 electoral votes of which you need about 270 to win the presidency. The question for you looking at those states, is how do you get to those 270. I heard earlier Jeff talked about national, we are moving away from a national politics and more towards a state and local approach, and that’s what our politics have really gone to in the U.S. We don’t have a national politics anymore; we have a state by state method and strategic way of advancing of our politics and in order to actually win, it’s important for us to understand on how to get to that 260.
So how do you do that? There is 5 key states that we call early primary states in the US, you have Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire, South Carolina and for us as an industry, it’s important that we get into those states. It’s important that we sort of interject energy literacy into those campaigns. Why? When you go to Iowa and you go to New Hampshire, you do a lot of retail politics, you spend a lot of time kissing babies, shaking hands and so forth. And if we as an industry don’t get in early and intercept these presidential candidate’s, talk about energy and get energy into the political discourse that is happening, we’ve lost. So we have to get into the conversation very early on, and interject the importance of energy, the value of energy, and how energy benefits in terms of economy, jobs that are created within the U.S.
The Senate is pretty key for us, right now you see the make-up that just changed, over 54 republicans, 45 democrats, that’s important. Why? Right now the discourse in the senate is horrible. We have moved away from a simple majority of 51 votes to now needing 60 votes in order to move public policy, and we have moved from 60 votes, which is actually needed in order to get something to the floor to get a vote on, to 67 votes, so the bar has raised in the U.S. You need 67 votes to ensure to be able to defeat a presidential veto in order to get any type of public policy across. It’s important to understand that we need to also go into these key senate areas to be able to interject energy literacy and what’s going on at that level. This is the house and it’s a lot of red, 245 members, this is pretty much historic, but there’s no conversation happening at this level. And there is no conversation happening inside the belt, but for us it’s about the belt, where meaning inside of D.C., verses outside of belt way, and in order to be able to influence both the house and senate in the US, you need to influence the outside of the belt. Where you need to go into their districts, you need to go into their states, and have significant conversations, and get other key individuals to have conversations about energy.
The Governors, this is where a lot of the legislative regulatory activities are occurring right now. The Governors is where a lot of stuff is happening right now, a bit similar to your premiers in your different provinces with the exception of the power. Our governors are still dependant on the federal government to make things happen, but more importantly, these guys are the ones that are moving policy right now because of the gridlock that is occurring in Washington, this is where you have significant amount of activities occurring as it relates to infrastructure. When we talk about energy infrastructure right now, our battle is at the state level and these guys are the ones driving the car, and we need to be able to really motivate these guys to do the right thing. But more importantly, they are all very egotistic. At some point these guys end up being the next President of the United States of America and you can see some of these candidates, some better than others. I know you guys have been seeing on the news with what’s going on with Governor Pence from Indiana, you never heard anything about him before until the last week or so simply because he has interjected a religious bill which is very controversial. In the U.S., it’s all about politics, and for him how does he put his name rep up, he puts something controversial out there, and now everyone is coming after him and now everyone knows him. So it’s very strategic, these guys are the next faces, these guys are the ones who drive policy within their state and it’s important for us, whether were from Canada or from the U.S., it’s important for us that we understand how to motivate these individuals particularly because of the ego that they have. They all have a reason of being, they all want to be the next President of United States of America, and if you can understand that, then you will be able to understand how to sort of motivate these individuals.
So, I was talking about industry challenges, and because of all the gridlock in Washington we have moved away from the inside of the belt focus, our opposition has moved away, we have had some really good wins, believe it or not, in the last 5 years at the federal level. If you look, we haven’t had any new taxes on the industry in the last 5 years, climate change, although it passed through the house, it’s never gone anywhere else, RFS, ozone, all the key things that we as in industry care about out in the US, we have won.
So, what has our opposition done? They said okay, well we need to go out and move out to the people. They have gone out to the state, to the local level. And for us, it’s important that we are able to combat them at that level. Now I say that, that is in the U.S. Believe it or not, that is outside of the U.S., they have migrated now outside of the U.S., in Canada, in Europe, in Africa, and other places, so this not a phenomena that is just in the U.S. These folks are going into other places because they realize they can get to the people, and most people don’t have time to worry, so if you tell someone something they believe you, because they’re so caught up in everyday life they just don’t have time, so we need to find ways to get to people.
The answer for us is building a strong advocacy level, again, outside of the belt way and into the state capitals throughout the U.S. There’s three key things for us: constituencies hold the power, every elected official cares about one thing, how they get re-elected. That’s their fundamental thing that they have inside, how do I get re-elected. And you get elected two ways, either you have enough money to get the votes or you actually go out and knock on as many doors as you can and actually get the voters to the polls on behalf of you. For us, we have the same ability to get to those constituents, and it’s important that we actually get to those constituents as early as possible. Power is in numbers, having people in those communities and those congressional districts, or those municipalities or townships, those counties, those provinces, getting to those individuals that would actually go to the polls and have a conversation with them, a real conversation about the value of energy in their lives and how they should speak up for that which is very important us to do.
Then the ultimate, which is to provide political cover, every elected official will want to know that if they are going to do something on behalf of any industry, that they have the political cover in their district. That their constituents support it, that the businesses in their community, that their leaders in that community, that their civic groups in the community have some sort of support for what that issue is all about and that’s how they will support you, so that is very important.
In terms of building an effective program, there is four key components that you need to have. I’m all about making sure that I do a lot of research, I do not go into any situation unless I do a significant amount of research and to me, these four things are very important.
- What’s the pro’s and con's
- What’s the situation that is happening
- Who’s for you
- Who’s against you
It’s very important that you understand those things when it comes to issues, so you have to go out there and do a significant amount of issue analysis. Community assessment, I think the most important thing in anything we do is a community assessment, this is where you do a lot of quantitative and qualitative analyses, focus groups, polling. The ultimate goal is to have an idea of what is going on in that community. How do you find that soul of that community, what motivates each individual in that community to come out and support you. It’s very, very important. So, as we start thinking about pipelines or infrastructure work, I know we have a lot of engineers in the room that is great, we love you all, I wouldn’t have a job without you guys. But it’s important to know that if we are building a pipeline route across whatever, it is also important to understand what are the community effects of that route that you’re actually going to put that pipeline through. It’s important that you go to every route and have a conversation with that community. Assess the community to get a better sense, and then when you assess the community you have a sense of who holds the stake within that community. As you do a stakeholder analysis, right, who’s the power player in that. You have to do a power analysis, you have to map out that community to understand how that community functions. Who has a stake if we win, who has a stake if we lose. Those things are very fundamental and very important as we are able to move and get these pipelines through. And then finally the political assessment, what is the politics, who are the key political players in the state, what do these elected officials need to be able to support, very important in terms of how we move our program forward.
There are some keys things here in terms of engagement and there is a couple of things not on here, so if you look at the bottom we have political families, one of the things we do a lot of, because in the U.S., everything is around politics, believe this. In the U.S., everything is about politics, our lives is around politics. And I was telling some folks this morning, the reason why is, if you are not at the table then you are on the menu, and we never want to be on the menu. That’s important. So we have spent a lot of time doing what we call political family intercepts. So Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Florida, and Nevada are all key early primary states. So as the candidates go through those states, we have folks on the ground that would intercept those candidates early and talk to them about the value in our industry, talk about energy, so if they are the podium we will ask them questions: What is your energy plan? Do you support hydraulic fracturing? That’s important we have to challenge them to think about the value of energy, and if we don’t do that we are in trouble.
Another thing we do is we go door to door, we spend a lot of time knocking on people’s doors and having a conversation about those individuals, we do a lot of house parties. We ask individuals to invite 10 to 20 of their neighbors in a four block radius or so to talk about energy. Those are the important things to do.
You look at social media, Twitter is the most fundamental new thing we have out there. Most Americans believe in what they read on Twitter. Can you believe that? They do. People don’t go to the newspaper anymore, they go on Twitter. They get up every morning, go on Twitter and look at what’s going on. You know. A sentence, 20 words or less and people believe it. So the competition that we have on social media is very important, and we have to have voices on that, and I know it’s a cultural shift for a lot of the oil and gas industry companies, but we have to get involved because, again, we don’t want to be on the menu.
Then the whole thing around events, we do a lot of events in the key battleground states, these are the states you need to win to get the electoral votes to win the presidency. We do a lot of paid media, we get into a lot of micro media which are these small newspapers, and in the US we have these small neighbourhood newspapers. For example in the Capitol Hill we have the Hill Rag, which is about mom's in the hill. Which is a about a bunch of mom's that have this website, but they’re powerful. This is one of the most powerful woman I’ve ever seen, and you just put one thing in and it goes all around Capitol Hill and believe me it’s trouble. So, being able to really look at some of these key tools you have over there, and leverage it to get your message out, is pretty much fundamental.
Now API, when I came aboard five years ago and they asked me to build this program, utilizing some of the same techniques that I sort of discussed in the last couple of slides. The first thing I looked at is what sort of base of support do we have in the oil and gas industry. And when I looked at that base, the first thing is saw was that base was old, it was white, it was male and it was conservative. And that did not reflect the faces within the U.S. Particularly when you have a significant demographic shift that is occurring within our country, where the majority of our population in about a decade is going to be African American’s, Latino’s, and Asian. So, for us as an industry, how do we benefit from that, particularly at about the same time in about seven to ten years, we are going to have a what we call a big crew change, at least in the U.S., we have about 9.8 million people, at least half of those are supported by the oil and gas industry will retire. So the baby boomers. So, how do you replenish that pipeline with human capital that is as diverse as possible, it’s something that we needed to capture.
So, as I start building out my program, I start thinking about the perception of the general public towards the industry, what is the perception of the industry employees towards the industry, what is the perception of non-traditionalists towards the industry, what do strategic partners think about us. Four key tools for us to think about, and then the goal is how do we start looking at all these different folks and put in some programmatic things. Of which energy citizens, energy nations, energy forums, we’re the key tools that we put forth, to be able to capture all these different constituency groups that matter, that could actually have a voice on behalf of the oil and natural gas industry in the U.S. Energy citizens today, we have about 1.5 million, that’s in all 435 congressional districts. Our program that we built at API has the ability to affect members in all 435 congressional districts, and all 50 states within the U.S. and the territories. That is important because of the size of our industry, we have to make an impact, we don’t apologize for anything, but one of the things that we know is a big challenge in the oil and gas industry is literacy. People don’t understand who we are, people are not educated about us, we need to do a better job of educating individuals about it.
Outside of those three, so energy nation, this captures the voice of industry – employees, retirees, suppliers and vendors, and having those voices be heard before congress on behalf of industry. Energy forums, these are all for political hacks like myself, people that have managed numerous political campaigns over the years across the country, and what we ask them to do is go and have a conversation with non-traditional in the state that they represent. It’s very important for us to ensure we don’t just talk to people who look like us, who sung like us and who support us. Businesses, farm bureaus, manufacture associations, we have to get out of that, and talk to women, talk to African Americans, talk to the NWCP’s, talk to the congressional black caucus, talk to the Hispanic congressional caucus. A good example, when you add the number of members of congress from the congressional Hispanic caucus to the congressional black caucus to the congressional Asian caucus, you have a block of votes of anywhere from 100 to 120. That’s pretty significant, when you talk about only having 435 members of congress on the house side, obviously. So, if you have that block of vote, and you need anywhere between 218 votes to actually make an impact, you are almost there. And so for us, what we have learned, we have never reached out to these groups before, we’ve never had to. So, now that we are reaching out to them and actually spending a lot of time educating them about the value of our industry, low utility costs, low gas prices, other values in terms of jobs, in terms of tax base, in terms of new roads, schools in their communities. What we find, is that they sort of understand us and see us in a different place than they did before. Not just these big corporate folks that don’t care and want to come and abuse our citizenry, but they add value. They add value to what we do. And so it’s important for us to reach out to these individuals.
In terms of API, this is a sort of our national, state and local reach. API has petroleum councils in 34 states and that’s a big deal for us. So the red states is where we have strong, really strong coverage. Where we feel that any issue that comes after us, that we can make an impact and actually turn back those issues. In the tan state this is where we are so – so, we do have strong programs there, but we still have to work there with folks. The red states is where our members wanted us to focus our efforts. So that is where our board of directors have us focusing our efforts at. But when you add up the number of electoral votes, and I talked you guys about 500 and needing about 270 in order to win the presidency, we have in those 34 states, we have 351 electoral votes and that is very impactful for us. When you look at the battleground states, we are in most, 90% of the battleground states we are in, and that’s important. That’s important and relates to making an impact on industry. On sort of the political discourse that happens that’s not related to our industry.
For us, it’s all about moving local, for the last five years, we actually spend most of our efforts building relationships at the state, local level. Making sure we have local influences, making sure that we have the industry and the assets that the state has speak up. If you have a refinery, we will put up the refinery manager to make sure that he or she, but mostly he, that they go around their refinery and have a conversation with the stakeholders around the refineries. If there is a pipeline running around, we make sure we education the people in those communities about that pipeline. And the biggest piece of the energy is the voters, right. So I talk to you about three: energy nation, energy citizens, and energy forums. We have a fort that we don’t talk much about, but it’s about micro targets and you heard Jeff talk about it. Basically, what a micro target is, at least in the U.S. and I don’t know what it is called here, but in the U.S. it is called a vote-a-file, and a vote-a-file is a data base that houses all the information about you as a voter, your voting history is in that database. So, what we do is we go into that database, and we look for four out of four and three out of four past voting history. If I’m running a political campaign, and if any one of you guys want to run a political campaign and you want to win you call me. the first thing I do, is do an analysis of the voting history. Science taught us that you need to look at the last four elections to make a determination of what it takes to actually win this presidency election. So we go back to the last four elections, and we look at how people voted in the primary, and the general of those elections.
So, what we do then is we take a universe of about 3000 people, and we spend 45 minutes with them and ask them a series of energy questions, and based on how they answer those questions we create a profile of those individuals. When we take that profile and we overlay that onto the database on the vote-a-file and we purchase those records. When we purchase those records, the next thing we did was look at consumer data, how you shop, where you shop, we look at information on computers in terms of how you shop, there are a lot of cookies on your google when you’re on your internet that show where you shop. There are a lot of different companies out there that house how you behave online, how you behave in terms of your shopping habits. And we marry those two up, political with consumer data. And then we actually purchase those records. To date, we have about 32.8 million in 34 states across America. Why is that important? That’s important because this is the same type of thing that political parties do to win. So, the only other entity that has the same type of thing that we do is the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in the U.S. So, this is how we are able to actually apply pressure on elected officials particularly as it relates to our issue.
Our national reach, we have the ability to impact 68 US senators and 275 members of congress, and again, why is that important? Because we need 218 to actually to pass anything out of the house. In terms of states, we can impact 34 governors, thousands of municipalities and counties across the U.S. That’s important as folks go local, we have the ability to impact the constituencies of these elected officials at the local level. Then this year, I think is the key in terms of allies and strategic partners, we spend a significant amount of time with labor unions, I know you guys have a lot of labor unions in this country. The keystone pipeline was a big deal and actually resonated with Americans simply because of labor unions. The fight was not oil and gas, if it was I think we would have been in a different situation, not that we would be in a great situation, but we would definitely be different situation. But because you saw labor unions fighting the fight out there, it changed the perception of most American’s. Why? Because when you look at the importance of the labor unions, in 2008, our presidential elections, the building trades spent nearly three hundred million dollars, they did the same thing in the 2012 elections. That’s important. They know how to organize and know how to spend money.
In terms of our minority outreach, I told you we spend a lot of time with African American’s, Native American’s, Asian American’s. Our strategic outreach to academics and agriculture chamber are typical, we feel good there. Where our real challenge is on the demographic side which is students, and women. In the U.S., we’re losing woman in a significant way, simply because they care about safety and environment and they just don’t trust us. If you look at the make-up for our electorate, nearly about 51% to 55% of the electorate in the U.S. is woman. They are the key voters and so if we don’t make an impact, and change perception of this industry, we will have a significant amount of challenges as we move forward. I would assume that this would probably be the same here in Canada. Seniors, we do well, except for the baby boomers. As they get older and make their money now, they actually want to protect these places. Places like the Gulf region, eastern Atlantic, Myrtle Beach, you know those places where they go buy their second and third homes. These people working in our industry are fighting us now; they made money from our industry and actually are fighting us right now. So again, we have to be very strategic when it comes to how we deal with those folks. And our veterans, we have a veterans for energy program and it’s one of the most important programs that we have. One of the reasons is that Veterans are a big deal in the U.S. right now. When we are doing a fly-in and we bring 30 to 40 veterans into D.C., there is not an office they go into that a senator is not there ready to greet them. That’s very important in terms of how you are actually meeting them, but they understand the value of the industry. They have had to go and fight on behalf of the oil and natural gas in other countries. They understand that the fleet out there, and different ships can’t move without oil and natural gas. And they understand the value of energy security, they understand the value of what we can do when Putin said he was going to stop that pipeline from going from the Ukraine to Europe, they understand that we, here in North America, have the ability to actually make a difference for the folks in Europe. Right, so it’s important to spend a lot of time with Veterans.
So again, I wanted you give guys a real quick understanding, that video is all the work we did leading up to the presidential campaign of 2012. We are actually doing the same thing; we will update the video leading up to 2016 vote for energy. We see the value of utilizing those opportunities again to get the word out about energy, forcing the candidates to create some sort of energy plan that make sense in the U.S., but the new numbers that we have, we have a total mobilization asset of 34.5 million, and so some of those numbers were a little bit old, but the program is just an amazing program. We have a lot of governors and senators calling us up and saying “hey how can we get that, how can we purchase that,” but again for us it’s about putting pressure. The one thing we have not done yet, and it will happen someday, I don’t know if it will when I’m there still. But we have not gone after elected officials, we have not been putting members with the elected officials we care about or take out the ones we don’t like. We have the ability to that, but that’s something we will never do because our members don’t want us to do that. But that’s how strong of a program it is, it’s needed, we have seen a significant amount of changes within our industry as a result of this program, we’re respected now, we have voices in congress at the state house, the state capitals across the country. When something happens, people call us before they actually go and put public policy that might be impactive on the industry. So, I’m hoping that we can help again, take this same type of strategy and bring it here to Canada, because it’s not about the tools, the methodology that we use could work anywhere. We just have to understand the environment, the political landscape that we are in. However, keep in mind that the methodology works.
Q & A
Q: When we talk about politics and communications, particularly American style politics, which comes with some connotations in Canada, the concern is that it can be very polarizing, the concern is that it could harden positions of opponents, and people who might be inclined to support us, might help us drive them away. What has been your experience in helping to bring more people into the conversations and try to minimize some of that polarization?
A: In the US, it is polarizing; I would say any candidate in the US running for President could start out from any place. We have a 45/45%, so if you are a Republican, and you never ran for office and you want to run for Presidency, you automatically have 45% of the vote. So what people fight for is that 10% in the middle. What you do then, is that people are really disenchanted by our political process. And it is important that you meet people at where they are. So a lot of what we do is go to the doors and visit these individuals, host a lot of house parties and have conversations with them and talk about the value of the electoral process. Not necessarily about the candidates, but about the process, and how they should actually participate within that process. But more importantly, finding an issue that they could actually rally around in that political process, and the hope for us that issue is energy. We have been able to motivate a lot of individuals to really see energy as the value for why they’re going to the polls. But that is the only way you would be able to do that, is finding in the people some sort of issue. People just don’t like candidates anymore.
Q: I like your emphasis on the positive message, I like the education. I didn’t hear a thing about climate change. The pipelines have nothing to do with pipelines, they have everything to do with fossil fuels. Have you deliberately chosen not to fight the battle on that ground? We’re always accused of being climate change deniers on that kind of thing. But you seem to have developed your strategy away from that controversial issue, maybe an unproven issue, and you are focusing very much on the positive. Do you have another aspect where you deal with the science or are you reaching people where they feel energy in their lives?
A: So climate change in the U.S. was a pretty significant issue around 2010, but the bill never passed through the senate. It passed the house but never made it through the senate. Which would then go up to President Obama to sign, it sort of died down. So it moved away, and it wasn’t an issue that we needed to focus on. What we needed to do in the U.S., was begin to build a base of support in key communities across the country, knowing that climate change would come back up. So everything we did, we knew what was going to occur. What we have seen in the last ten months is that every issue that has been put out by our opposition is through the lens of climate change. So Oil Sands – Climate Change, Pipelines – Climate Change, Offshore – Climate Change, Hydraulic Fracturing – Climate Change, and part of that is simply because of where the president is going in the U.S. right now. He has made climate change one of the fundamental parts of his legacy. Looking at December this year in Paris, they actually do something with post Kyoto. I don’t know whether that has happened, but what that has done is it has motivated our opposition to find ways to raise money under the issue of climate change. But if you look at what is going on in our country, climate change is really not a big issue by the average American. It is by a small group of people, and we are watching it, but more important for us and more important for Canada is to lay the groundwork in the key communities that you see, that you think the fight is going to happen. Particularly along routes of where we are actually moving and building new infrastructure projects.
Q: We always hear about the coal lobby and never about the oil or gas lobby, is there anything we can learn from the coal lobby that seems to be very strong?
A: I really don’t want to learn anything from the coal lobby, because if you look at where coal is right now, it’s nowhere. I think we as an industry, we have done a lot better work simply because you don’t hear about us. We keep a very low profile, we are very strategic. We care about winning, we know for a fact that it’s important if we show other faces verses faces of the industry, so we try to build a lot of coalitions in communities that we go into, coalitions that look like the community, which is very different than the coal. The coal lobby, it is very strong and you have key senators like Senator Bird who passed or Senator Rockefeller, who would do anything, they would die for coal. I think the only senator we had in the U.S. that would die for oil and gas was Senator Benson back in Texas way back when. It is a different day, and the whole issue of why coal lobby doesn’t make sense is because of campaign reforms that we have had in the U.S., which has changed the game in doing back room deals, and having conversations verses going out into the real public and having a real dialogue with Americans. That has changed the game. But the coal lobby is not in a good place right now.
Q: How do you maintain that level of support and engagement with energy citizens when there isn’t an elections, you know when there isn’t a ballot question, or when there isn’t a specific project to rally support behind and or counter opposition. When it’s just we want people to be confident and supportive of oil and gas in general?
A: I think it’s important that you continue the dialog with individuals in the space you have them in. For us it’s energy nations, energy citizens is the data base where we have a significant amount of supporters. And the way we deal with that, is we sort of line individuals up along the areas that they care about. So if they are passionate about offshore drilling, if they are passionate about hydraulic fracturing, if they are passionate about schools, we sort of bring them together with using social media tools within our database so that they could have conversations with each other. It’s a way to motivate them and to actually continue to act on different things. Some of the other things we do is to find games, find challenges within our database. We will also do outside digs where we will invite them to come to some sort of house party, we invite them to do a webinar, where we would have an actual Senator or a member of the house, or we have Jack Gerard on a webcast, where we have anywhere from five to ten thousand people just talking about energy. So you have to keep these people in line or else you will lose them. So you have to keep that sort of passion that they have and you have to do it in different ways.
Q: Do you see any value in being seen as an advocate for energy efficiency or energy conservation, do have that in your mandate anywhere at all?
A: Yes, the way we approach our outreaches, we are for all of the above. And if you look at the state of our American energy, we do a state of American energy event every year in January, in D.C. It’s usually the week before the state of the union that the President does, and this year we focused on all sources of energy, efficiency, wind, solar, nuclear, biomass, you name it, and we had all those individuals write a couple of pages within our notebook. I will make sure we actually get it out to you guys. But for us, it’s all about energy, it’s all the above. It’s the only way we will actually be able to get across, but most importantly it’s the only way to get advocates to support our interests.
Q: In Canada we have seen environmental NGO’s take the strategy that undermining the public confidence in regulatory authorities, and independent ones is a way to advance their mission. It’s my thesis that we have work to do if we are supportive of resource activities in that realm. What are thoughts on that?
A: Our opposition is a lot smarter now and they actually have a lot more resources then they had. A good example a former mayor of New York city, Bloomberg, just gave 50 million dollars to the Sierra Club to go back to do their beyond coal campaign, right now they have a beyond an oil and gas campaign. First when they were doing the beyond coal campaign, the bridge fuel that they had was natural gas, so they were very supportive of natural gas and now they are not supportive of natural gas. Which is very telling as they don’t care for fossil fuels, and so what we are seeing at the local level, they are doing a lot to undermine the regulatory process, and partly what we see happening is that they are going to key legislators at the state level, the county level or municipality level. They are sort of picking and choosing which one to go to and they have those individuals put local control issues before the legislature or whatever elected that body you have. And for us, one of the key things that we have seen that actually helped overcome these things, is early on education with those elective officials. Most of the elective officials, like again most of the American citizens in our country, don’t understand the value of energy and how it matters to them. So we have been fighting those things and we are actually winning those things in terms of the regulatory process at the state level.
Another thing we see, and it’s definitely something you guys should look at, is the whole divestment campaign, I don’t know if you guys have seen that yet in Canada. We have 350.org going to all these big universities in the US. The Ivy league, the Harvard, the Yale’s of the world, and asking them to divest all their stocks in the oil and gas industry, and some of the universities have done that and some of them are seeing the impact right now on the effects. Now keep in mind, in our country, everyone is invested in the oil and gas industry and most people don’t even know that. Most pensions, are invested in the oil and gas industry, if you divest in one you lose significantly on the other. So they are being very smart, and they are not going to stop, and they are the reason why I have a job and I’m happy for that, but we have to be very, very smart and very strategic, and we have to think ahead of the game in order to win these things. And we can do it, why? Most people do not understand who we are as an industry, they don’t. Now again keep in mind, when we have done a significant amount of polling, and focus groups, and the most that people think about us is when they go down to the gas station and pump that gas. Or when they come into their house and turn on their switch and the light comes on. They don’t know what happens, they just want that light on. We have to do a lot of energy literacy and we have to spend a lot of time. We have to know that it has to be long term, it’s not a short-term fix or else we lose, because our opposition is not going away. And, like I said they have migrated across the waters right now. I have been talking to Shell in Europe, the British, they have all seen a significant amount of state local battles in their countries and now they come to us to figure out how to put a program together for that because it’s not stopping.
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