Gulf Oil Corporation recently had an advert behind the home plate of a Boston Red Socks game which read something like: because you trusted Gulf Oil at the Pump… You can trust Gulf (Electricity) in your home.
It takes some steel to claim trustworthiness if you are a fossil fuel company (FFC) these days. And in our homes at that?
Don’t know about you, but images of a Plains All American Pipelines bursting in my bathroom or a BP Deepwater Horizon erupting in my kitchen sink kind of leap to mind.
I have nothing against Gulf. I don’t particularly like fossil fuels, but they are not going away tomorrow, so we ought to judge FFCs by their transparency and plans to transition to environmentally sane energy, and not just our visceral sentiments about them.
Still, a not so clean and stellar impression of FFCs precedes them.
Indeed, when asked by a 2013 Harris poll “which industries are generally honest and trustworthy so that you normally believe a statement by a company in that industry,” just 4% of consumers found oil and gas companies to be trustworthy, beating out only tobacco companies… and even then by a mere 1%.
Here is just a short list of things that hardly inspire trust:
- $5.3 Trillion in fossil fuels subsidies while making pretty hefty profits…
- $141M oil and gas lobby bill in USA alone (2014) and not just a few iffy things ….
- $5.5 B (estimate) in fines in 2014 (US only)…
- Oil and gas lead in corruption….
- Highest rate of bribery cases in the UK…
- $1.7 B gallons of oil lost as a result of tanker incidents alone from 1970 to 2009, with much more lost accidentally down the drain, up in smoke, or “where ever” during routine facilities maintenance…
- 5 companies want to drill in Arctic oceans, probably the most sensitive and dangerous environment in the world to work in….
Fossil fuel companies will remain important for years to come, some will survive the transition to clean energy and other wont.
Trust will play a big role in the coming transformation and that trust will have to be earned through transparency and intention. Simply asserting trustworthiness, well, that is a start, but some serious effort will be required to gain consumer confidence along the way.
Photo credit: telegraph uk.