You know you’re gaining ground when the industry you’re working to replace begins coveting your pop icons.
That’s what seemed to be happening last week, when oil and gas news outlet JWN Energy urged its readers to come up with the fossil industry’s answer to Elon Musk.
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“Why don’t people think drilling rigs are as cool as Teslas?” asked JWN President and CEO Bill Whitelaw.
“One wonders what things might be like if there was an Elon Musk with a petroleum persona,” he wrote, “a larger-than-life personality capable of defining a vision and stepping boldly toward it—and tugging along people like mesmerized rats dutifully following the Pied Piper of Hamelin.”
Whitelaw said the fossil industry is missing out on a “charisma link” to a broader public that is “happy enough to use the products of our efforts, without dwelling too much on how things (gasoline, heating fuels, refined petroleum products et al) lubricate life as we know it.”
He suggested it might be time for the fossil sector to “groom such a person, someone capable of pointing to the future and articulating the role a sustainable petroleum economy will play in continuing to positively shape people and society over the next 50 years.”
The flaw in Whitelaw’s flight of fancy might be his comment that “petroleum-powered economies will be around for the foreseeable future,” and “the petroleum sector’s next 50 years will be characterized by even more amazing technological advances as the industry balances cost and environmental imperatives.” His industry’s cool, new emerging technologies will still be up against the reality that fossil fuel combustion drives climate change—and as that impact is factored into the cost of the product, low- and post-carbon technologies increasingly win on price as well as emissions.