Now is not the time to stop talking energy

April 2nd, 2015 | by Larry Clausen

This article was originally published in Oilweek.

Canada’s energy industry—notably the petroleum sector—has worked hard to build awareness and knowledge with the public. Many campaigns have been deployed for this purpose and met varying degrees of success. Perhaps the single greatest challenge to these efforts has been a perception that the energy industry really doesn’t matter to individual Canadians as long as they can start their cars and keep their homes warm.

The reality of how energy impacts the economy is now in full bloom under the pressure of low oil prices. Companies are slashing spending and this means thousands of people are out of work. Governments are struggling to figure out how this will impact their revenues and budgets while tax paying citizens are unemployed and revenue sources severely reduced.

People are busy with their day-to-day lives and unfortunately don’t pay attention until something directly impacts their lives. This downturn will hit every Canadian’s wallet and the longer it lasts the worse it will be. Sadly, it is only through the school of hard knocks that we will come to appreciate the importance of a healthy Canadian energy industry.

During this downturn, the oil and gas industry must not stop talking to Canadians. Now more than ever, it needs to show and tell the significant contributions energy creates for the country. The messaging and tone should reflect today’s reality as proof of this fact.

Often communications by any industry to the public are complex and not seen as relevant to an individual’s life. The energy industry is guilty of this trait, especially when it quotes large numbers of economic impacts and difficult to understand statistics. Interestingly, this complex messaging even contributes to employees of energy companies misunderstanding their employers’ contributions to the nation.

Continuing to use simple messages such as how oil and gas is used to make our smartphones, technologies and toys can make the industry more relevant and the story more personal. Because the simple truth is that without oil and gas, we would be a very different society, one not likely as advanced as we are today.

Canada’s oil and gas industry should let Canadians know it doesn’t control the price of oil and that producers are also worried about the economic impact current prices will have on this great nation. They recognize the hardships that are being felt in the stores and kitchens of the country and they are just as anxious as every citizen to see prices increase so we can all share in the benefits.

But not all must be doom and gloom. There are still many great stories for Canada’s energy industry to share. Canadians should be reassured that technology is creating new best practices for industry on the environmental front and that innovation is timely. Canadians can be reminded that oil and gas companies not only deliver products for us here at home, but for people around the world. Along with our natural resources, industry also showcases and exports the human resources and know-how of the nation for other countries to drive innovation and improvements abroad.

The industry understands we are moving to a more diverse energy future, which is one reason they are major investors in the alternative energy sources currently being developed.

Creating a vibrant and viable energy industry for our future generations should be a goal of all Canadians. Circumstances today challenging the energy industry and the nation allows for a different voice—one that speaks to the reality of its impact on the country in both good and bad times.

Talking with Canadians and not to them is critical for the industry today and current prices should not stop the dialogue.