Rhetoric & Reality: Creating a Clean Energy Future
With Suzanne Ogle, CEO of Southern Gas Association
Duration: 25mins, Released Jun 03, 2021
In our polarized world, it is easy for conversations to get stuck. And when it comes to energy and the environment, conflicting views emerge that drive people apart like opposing magnets. How can we find new pathways forward on the big issues of our time -- whether at the holiday dinner table, in our organizations, or on the wider political stage? By understanding rhetoric and reality.
In this webinar, Southern Gas Association CEO Suzanne Ogle will discuss energy realism and the necessary dialogue between stakeholders on the interrelationships between energy and environment. To constructively advance energy, we need facts and the ability to discuss issues openly and respectfully. There is a tremendous amount of optimism in the energy sector when we take the long view and create a pragmatic vision.
About The Pandell Leadership Series
The Pandell Leadership Series is a collection of free webinars featuring presentations by energy industry experts in a variety of specialized fields. Topics range from global business issues to recommended best practices in oil and gas; pipelines; mining; utilities; and the renewable energy industry (including wind, solar, hydrogen, geothermal, marine & hydrokinetic, nuclear and biomass power).
Please Note: Views and opinions expressed by the PLS presenter(s) do not necessarily represent the views of Pandell and its representatives.
ELIZA WITH PANDELLHello and welcome everybody. Thank you so much for joining us today. Today’s, I believe, the tenth in our Pandell Leadership Series of webinars and we’re absolutely delighted to have Suzanne Ogle with us today. And she is discussing “Rhetoric and Reality: A Pragmatic Vision of a Clean Energy Future.” Welcome Suzanne.
Suzanne Ogle serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Southern Gas Association [SGA] and is President of the Gas Machinery Research Council [GMRC]. With more than 25 years of experience in the oil and gas industry and more than a decade of membership and volunteer leadership with the Independent Petroleum Association of America [IPAA], Suzanne is clearly passionate about her work. And we are delighted to have her join us today. So, without further ado, I’m going to pass the floor to you Suzanne and…
SUZANNE Alright, awesome. Thank you so much. Hi, I’m Suzanne Ogle. Thanks for joining me here today.
It was the Fourth of July about a year ago and I was at my home in Florida. And we were grilling and playing on the beach and swimming, enjoying a great family fourth of July. At some point during my burger, somebody asked me about my point-of-view on the pending election. I shared that I was particularly concerned with energy policies. Biden and Harris caused me great pause because of their philosophical energy realism and their failure to examine energy from a 360-view. My concern is that focusing solely on the environmental perspective and dismissing the reality of fossil fuel consumption and reliance and the systems interdependence. Well, that would create a long-term harm for our country and the world. So, you can see why that was a big buzz kill for my burger.
Anyway, here you see my dad. He’s pictured with me, and I love him tremendously. He’s a consumer of natural gas via the propane that fuels his stove, it heats his pool, runs his outdoor kitchen, and backs up his house for generation. Still, he has his reservations about fossil fuel, and he supports policies that might make those resources unavailable to him.
And we talked about negative emissions while I was there. We talked about system interdependence. We talked about the pros and cons of each one of those fuel sources and about an all the above solution and we still weren’t aligned.
And when I left that July, I gave my dad a kiss on the forehead and an agreement to continue the conversation. So, my dad he’s one of the many people that feel anxiety about climate change and how that might impact our future. And as much as he loves me and he trusts me, he’s skeptical of the information that I provide for him. Believing that I have an agenda. I said, “Do you think your darling daughter is a mouthpiece for the industry? And my viewpoint is rhetoric from big oil?” Well, he essentially said yes.
I mean how many of you have a dad, a mom, a brother, an uncle, an Uncle Chuck, a niece, or a neighbor that has the same reservations? In our polarized world it’s easy for conversations to get stuck. It’s important to find communication pathways forward on the big issues of our time, including energy. Whether at your holiday dinner table, or in your organization, or you’re at the soccer field, or on the wider political stage.
So, again thanks for joining us here today for the Pandell Leadership Series. I’m thrilled to be having invited to speak. I know how many other things people could be doing at this time so, it’s an honor to have you spend an hour with me.
What I have to share with you are some of the most important things that I’ve learned by communication. We’re going to talk about energy realism, how the interrelationships between energy and the environment, and necessary dialogue between stakeholders to get the energy realism.
So, I looked at the attendee list and I know that you guys are here because you care about energy, our industry and policy and you want to expand on the energy conversation as well. So, let’s get going.
Whatever your job is, whatever your position if you talk with other people, you’re in the business of communicating. And communicating means both understanding and being understood by others. Really the only question is, are you a good communicator?
So, I like to think of communication like dialing a telephone. After you key in the last digits the phone’ s going to ring and you’re going to connect with your party. At that point you’ll have an opportunity to influence, which means having an effect on the opinions and the behavior of others; to persuade, which means getting others to cooperate; or to negotiate, which means to getting the very best deal for all the parties involved.
So, ladies and gentlemen we have a common goal it’s a clean energy future. You know what, nearly 2/3’s of Americans, that’s 64% say that the US should use a mix of energy sources going forward, including fossil fuel, a lot with renewables. So, I would ask you then why is that drum banging so loud for the end of fossil fuel?
Today we’re going to learn how to be good communicators and find a path forward. To have constructive dialogue that can result in energy realism.
Hear ye, hear ye. More than 250 years ago people stood on tree stumps and on wooden crates to express their ideas in the streets of the 13 colonies that would soon become the United States. Those listening could ask questions, discuss the topics with others in the crowd and develop their own opinions. Public square speakers were eventually replaced by newspapers, and then by radio and television.
And a set of journalistic ethics laid the foundation for news gathering and reporting. Standards were used to verify information and establish the independence and objectivity of news professionals. And that became central to the process of informing the American public.
But then came ratings. With increasing competition to break the news first, facts were often forced out of communication. And in today’s media environment, facts seemingly become less important than beliefs.
In the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer they first identified a communication deficit, called the “The Battle for Truth.” And sometimes we call this an echo-chamber of media. The phenomenon of consumers taking confirmation bias in their media choice.
This is accelerated with four in ten people now showing poor information hygiene. That means not regularly engaging with the news, staying within their echo-chambers, not vetting information, or checking its verbosity before spreading it.
So, three years later you see the 2021 Edelman Trust Survey here and it shows that nearly 60% of people believe that news organizations are biased and support an ideology. So, they’ve moved from news reporting to punditry. In fact, in the 2020 Professional Credibility Report, it shows that mainstream news media professionals are at the bottom of the pack for uncredible professionals. Only 39% believe that news media are credible. That’s even lower than politicians, lawyers, and car salesman. Can you believe that? I mean who thought we would have news that was less reliable than a car salesman?
Anyway, then there is click-bait. So, without any significant economic barrier to entry, ordinary people began going online to express their own takes on the news. And it’s true. Information moves markets and people but so does dis-information. So, in the past the conspiracy theorists wore sandwich boards or shouted into a megaphone, “the end is near, the end is near.” Or what is it, Chicken Little and the sky is falling.
Well today social media is the megaphone to amplify whatever version of the truth you prefer. If you believe governments are suppressing the truth, well then outing these truths is what you consider news. And the result is absolutely a mess and it’s a decline in confidence and information more generally.
Younger Americans, millennials, and adults in the Gen Z they stand out in Pew Research Center surveys. For particularly for their high levels of engagement with the issue of climate change. Compared with older adults, Gen Z’s, and millennials they’re talking more about the need for action on climate change. Amongst social media users, they’re seeing more climate change content online. And they are doing more to get involved with the issue through activities such as volunteering and attending rallies and protests.
As a result, today’s businesses and consumers face demands for the forcible phasing out of fossil fuel energy. Environmental activists decry that continued fossil fuel production and combustion, well that will result in a permanently changed planet, rendering habitats unlivable, changing ecosystems, and heralding an ominous future for biological life on our fragile planet.
Energy cohorts on the other hand. Well, they contend that fossil fuels are vital and necessary in every sector of the modern economy. And they also remind dissenters of the impracticability of moving away from hydrocarbons with a still nascent renewable energy sector incapable of taking its place.
So, the result of this tug of war is environmental activism. In less than a decade, activism against the fossil fuel industry has exploded. While environmentalist used to focus on carbon emissions or renewable energy policies, today the most prominent activists directly attack the fossil fuel industry.
Climate activism targets include both the infrastructure used to produce, transport, and consume those products and the corporations that finance, own, and operate that infrastructure. There’s movements like “Keep it in the Ground” and the Sierra Club’s fossil free movement targeting major institutional investors. Many of these partnerships are backed by media-trusts and not everybody knows that.
So, movements like these are premised on a presently unrealistic and untenable notion that the world can divest fossil fuels, from its energy economy and terminate oil and gas development in the immediate or even the near-term future. These movements disregard the possibilities of serious harms to infrastructure, energy justice, economic harms with respect to revenues and infrastructure framework, or geopolitical risks tied to energy inter-independence and regional stability. And lacking within the construct of activism is the notion of energy realism. And that is acknowledging the prevalence and necessity of petroleum hydrocarbons to American society and our economy.
You know we have big issues facing our world today. Some six in every seven humans still live-in undeveloped countries. Non-Western nations aspiring to western standards of living they now account for three-fourths of global CO2 emissions. This represents a fundamental barrier to progress for a sizable portion of the world’s population and has impacts on a wide range of sustainable development indicators. Including health, education, food security, gender equality, livelihoods, and poverty reduction. These are all part of the sustainable development goals established by the UN.
The number of people gaining access to electricity has been accelerating since 2010 to around 118M each year. But these efforts they’re going to need to accelerate if the world is going to meet the sustainable development goal number seven. Which means ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030. And that all does not mean in the United States it means the world.
So, for this reason alone, whatever the US and other western nations do, net zero by mid-century is simply not going to happen unless we have a thoughtful discourse, and we have realistic solutions.
But developing countries aren’t alone. Energy poverty is closer to home than you think. One out of every three households in the United States struggle to pay their home energy bills. Energy poverty in the US is more than a news story to the millions of American families struggling to keep their homes secure and hospitable.
Electricity is necessary for staying healthy, safe, and connected to the outside world. Secondary effects of energy poverty include going without heat, no hot water, going without light after sundown, or forgoing food, or medicine to pay for utilities. Or using improvised and unsafe energy alternatives like bringing your barbeque into your house.
In the simplest sense, the energy burden is the percent of your income that goes into services like electricity and gas that power appliances and heat or cool your home. If your energy burden gets to too high of a level, experts consider that energy poverty. So, energy and security is lacking reliable access to uninterrupted energy sources at an affordable price. And so, energy insecurity adds to food insecurity. No suitable cold storage for your food, fruits, vegetables, and fresh meat.
As I’m sure you’ve heard each year the California wildfires continue to ravage the state but possibly even more damaging than these well publicized tragedies is the everyday tragedy of energy insecurity. And I know, because I’m the POA for my elderly aunt and uncle who live in southern California. And their re-current power outages result in the need for them to continually throw away the food in their refrigerator. Additionally, the surges on and off, of the power has wreaked havoc on their refrigerator requiring pre-mature replacement.
They’re in their 90’s and on a fixed income. And for two people on a fixed income the additional expense is a burden. Worse yet, California’s electric bills are some of the highest in the United States. The percent of their electric bill to their income is shocking. It’s almost 10%. As a result, they live with their windows open, unwilling to sacrifice something else for air conditioning.
In March, they used 341kW of energy. Let me just say because I’m their POA I handle all their finances and all their bills so, just for sport for this presentation I looked this up. Their first 400kW were at $0.14 which is a really high rate for Texas and a very low rate for California. And that’s considered to be the base amount allowed. And then that rate escalates from the $0.14 to $0.20 per kWh for the next 400. And then to $0.27 per kWh for any usage after that. And that makes the percent of money that they pay for their power about 9% of their retirement income. Which is then classified as energy poverty.
Even worse, is they had an electric car and when they tried to charge it, they were also trying to use their microwave at the same time, and they blew out the circuit breakers for their house. And it wasn’t just tripping them, they blew them out. So, that resulted in a $500 electric repair. So, the short thing here is that the power in California is expensive and unreliable.
So, rhetoric is how you present or make an argument. In other words, rhetoric deals with the choices you make with about how you present information. The words that you use. The way you chose to express your ideas. So, you can see what changed between the first sign and the second sign, it was only the words. The argument or the information was still the same. I’m blind and I need money from you. However, changing the words or the message completely changed its effect on the people who saw the sign.
So, of course rhetoric is more than just word choice. The more you know about rhetoric the smarter you will be and the better you will be at persuading others. Knowing about rhetoric will also help you better recognize how other people and messages are trying to influence you to do things. So, the starting point of good communication is to realize that people are motivated for their own reasons, not yours.
Think about the last time you tried to have a conversation with someone you didn’t already agree with. Maybe it was about voting in an election, increasing diversity or even energy. Were your eyes rolling? There’s some place you want to be with that other person, but you just can’t seem to get there. In that moment, what are you thinking and feeling about the other person, but you might not say out loud?
Why isn’t he listening?
He can’t see the evidence.
You just don’t get it!
How can we be related?
And does that sound familiar to you? What about “those” people on the other side? It’s a polarized world and everybody is taking sides, everybody has an opinion – It’s climate change or fossil fuel, build a wall or open the gates, get a vaccine don’t get a vaccine.
There are so many of the big issues we face right now that are stuck in a kind of gridlock and we often see that gridlock on c-span but what other times, it’s right across the table like it was for me on the fourth of July.
So, how do we bring our conversations back to life? I think we need to think about these types of conversations. And when things get polarized, we can get zapped and we can experience this is a kind of dilemma like either, keep the peace but stall on an issue I care about, or I raise my voice and put the relationship at risk. But what if instead, we were to see this polarization as a kind of energy, a creative energy for action?
Today’s overcharged, divided political climate must be replaced by a return to civil conversations. We might disagree about a given topic or situation but, to constructively advance energy, we need facts and the ability to discuss these issues openly and respectfully, over an extended period of time if necessary. Just like I continue this conversation with my father. It’s going to take deep collaboration and coalition building as a mechanism to drive impact.
Energy champions don’t win arguments they win hearts. So, think about a relationship that matters to you, you care about their actions, their decisions, their opinions, you care about their feelings. It could be a colleague, a neighbor, a family member, a friend, but there is some issue where you’ve gotten stuck – what would be possible for you or for them if you could really make that conversation come alive? What would be possible for our nation if we could have these kinds of conversations? Our nation is a tapestry of conversations.
Now I don’t work with the politicians in DC. Thank God. My job is to educate business leaders in the energy industry. To teach them how to use the skills of business to tackle the big challenges of our industry and our nation: safety, knowledge transfer, and innovation. To solve social and environmental problems with their products and services. What is fortunate is that the tools you can use to talk to a skeptical CEO or investor about climate change are the same tools that we can use with people in our lives to take the long view and create a pragmatic vision of energy.
So, now we talked about rhetoric, let’s talk about reality. Humankind's health and quality of living and economic advances in the 20th-century are correlated with an unprecedented rise in energy consumption. Up to 32% of America’s energy comes from clean, affordable, and abundant natural gas. So, while groups look to eliminate fossil fuel, I would submit that natural gas isn’t yesterday’s energy — in fact, it’s the fuel of the future.
Here at SGA, we have members, both our operators and suppliers I see them creating cleaner fuel by finding new sources and using creative technology to make this reliable energy source cleaner than ever. These investments are driving innovation across the industry, and powering progress for our shared planet, and the people who call it home. We don’t have to choose between growing our economy, medical advances, and caring for our environment. We can have it all by embracing innovation, we can benefit. Whether carbon capture, developing new solar technology or stepping up efforts on storage, there is a tremendous amount of optimism in the energy sector and for obvious reasons.
Energy policy should be based on facts and reason, from the fundamental physics of energy production and storage to the relationship between energy and economic growth. The adoption of a philosophical energy realism will ultimately embrace the pragmatic energy realism tenet that we need to be realistic about our current energy needs and consumption behavior. But philosophical energy realism also includes the realization that our energy system, is composed of inputs and outputs, a system of quantifiable inputs and outputs. And failing to recognize the totality of the system it distracts the person from the reality of the system and instead it muddies the water with this reality and – versus just a perspective.
For many years, the oil and gas industry quietly set about producing and innovating and creating abundant, affordable energy. We didn’t take sustainability as seriously as we should have. We saw ourselves as the righteous ones, fueling America, creating energy independence. As environmental pressure increased, we started educating, but we weren’t quite getting where we wanted to go. For every push we’d get a push back. It was enough to finally decide we needed a new approach. So, like our industry, many people are passionate about energy. But the activists, they’re getting the ear of the public in a way our industry is not.
Now it seems to me that our industry’s approach is to inundate with facts or even possibly condescend, we’re here to tell you what you should do or what you will be able to do. Instead, what if our approach was, we’re here to help.
Bringing that conversation back to my dad, I had to ask myself, was I seeing things from his perspective? And I realized, I have to let go of something if we are going to move forward. I had to let go of feeling right. Does that give you pause?
I would tell you that our industry has too as well. We cannot act righteous and certain about the energy solution. Feeling safe among our allies and commiserating on the sidelines. Now that is going to keep us stuck. We need to focus on what we can do to drive down emissions.
We were doing that, but we need to be able to communicate what we’re doing and be seen as people who are here to help. Because now, we’re allies and we’ll unleash a wave of creativity and innovation, because when we let go, we get going.
So, thanks for that. I just wanted to end with just a short little bit about SGA. We were formed in 1908 and that was a time in history when America’s southern states were bustling with industry. The cities and towns were growing and increasing numbers of homes and businesses were being built. And they all needed the same thing, fuel. So, the horizon was beckoning for natural gas, and it was an exciting era of boundless potential and optimism. For more than 113 years we’ve been leaking people, ideas, and information. And the purpose of the association is to solve our common problems and innovate new solutions.
So, just today, just as in 1908 we’re in an exciting time in our industry. We’re innovating to a clean energy future. The Southern Gas Association is the largest regional natural gas trade association. We’re composed of more than 630 corporate members. We have operators on all points of the supply chain including producers, midstream, transmission, distribution, storage, marketing as well as municipals. And we also have associates that include companies like, that supply products and services and we’re proud to count Pandell as one of our associate members.
SGA’s mission is training, sharing best practices, leadership development, networking, and industry advocacy. And we do all this via public and in-house training workshops, webinars, conferences, round tables, and speaking engagements like the one that I’m here today at.
As I mentioned, we have more than 630 corporate members, each employee is a member of the association. So, we have 100’s of 1000’s of industry professionals who take off their competitor hats and work in partnership on councils, and committees, and task forces to address the industry’s biggest challenges. Including innovative opportunities, ESG [Environmental, Social, and Governance], pipeline safety, inclusion and diversity, asset management, leadership, and many others.
They develop resources and learning opportunities that advance the industry and the industry professional. So, if you’re interested in learning more about Southern Gas Association, you can reach out to us at www.southerngas.org. And if you have any questions for me specifically my email is Suzanne.email@example.com. Thanks for joining us here today. I appreciate your time.
ELIZA WITH PANDELL Thank you again for your time. And we absolutely hope to see you on July 13th at the next event. So, have a great afternoon everybody.