Sympathy For The Devil; Oil’s Makeover

As of late, the oil industry finds itself suffering an image malfunction. Petrol makers have hired Blue Worldwide, the advertising wing of PR giant Edelman. Another one of Edelman’s clients is Wal-Mart. But is that enough? McCain attacked major oil companies last week over reckless profiteering: “Outside of satanic cults, these people have the worst P.R. of anybody in the world.”

From an article in today’s New York Times, a quotable remix, with emphasis added:

    “The oil and natural gas industry is very misunderstood by the public…” said Jeff Eshelman, vice president for public affairs at the Independent Petroleum Association of America.”

    “I think what they need to do is tell their story…”, said Senator Cornyn.

    “It’s important that the American consumer understands the fundamentals of what’s going on…,” said Mr. Tillerson. “To the extent we can explain that in terms that people can understand, I hope that would be helpful.”

    “We can no longer be fortress America,” said Red Cavaney, president of the American Petroleum Institute. “I think we, like other industries, have been slow in understanding the need to communicate what we’re doing to the public and opinion makers.”

Maybe they should start a blog.

Comments

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  1. Karmakin says:

    Actually what they need to do is lower their profit margins.

    It’s not a PR problem they’re having. It’s a reality problem. If for some reason, they’re unwilling to lower their profit margins, fine. But then they’re going to have to take their lumps. And in a democracy, there’s always the possibility that such utter contempt for their industry could make things..difficult for them.

  2. SeekBalance says:

    I may be wrong, but I don’t think people want to understand a damn thing related to oil & gas. What they want is lower gas prices. No PR firm is going to affect that, IMO.

  3. Das Ubergeek says:

    First of all, let’s be realistic. You’re a company and all of a sudden you’re rolling in dough and people say, “your business is doing well, so you should voluntarily stop that”. Why should they? What are you going to do, boycott the gas pumps?

    I wouldn’t expect the federal government to do much… and it’s not like this is going to get better here. Think about the millions and millions of households in Asia that are now becoming two-car houses. Gas prices are not going to go down anytime soon.

    Ultimately, I actually want gas prices to go higher. Having lived in New York and Europe, I’m a big fan of efficient mass transit (which includes cargo transit, incidentally), but I’m also enough of a realist to know that the capital cost of building such systems will never be recouped — thus the only way these systems will get built is if there’s enough public pressure to just spend the money and do it.

    I happen to live in a place where I can take the bus to work and it takes only a few minutes longer than driving; most people are not so lucky. That should change; it won’t unless there’s a driving force behind it.

    Every time I pass an H2 or one of those Ford Subdivisions filling their tanks at $3.50 a gallon I think, “How much longer are you going to be willing to deal with $85 tanks of gas that last you 240 miles, all for the sake of looking ‘cool’ or transporting your children?”

  4. Kishi says:

    You’d think Exxon could spend some of that $8.4 billion they just made to make a cartoon series about Exxon execs saving puppies from burning buildings or something. That might work for them.

  5. Maybe they should call Robin Leach and do a special “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” for the oil company execs. That should be all the publicity they’ll ever need.

    Still, we should be blaming our politicians for not providing alternatives to automobile transportation…like say public transportation, not the oil companies for taking advantage of our dependence.

  6. Timbojones says:

    Right, it’s just supply & demand – supply goes down, price goes up. For prices to go back down, the solution can only be: demand less.

  7. Mary Marsala With Fries says:

    A-MEN, Ubergeek. I live in the biggest metro area in the US that’s completely without public transportation (I’ll give you a hint: We make those Ford Subdivisions, or at least we did until we all got laid off), and it SUCKS. It contributes to pollution, sprawl, poverty and racial segregation like you wouldn’t believe. And all of us are staring down the barrel of the future and thinking, “What the hell are we going to do now?”

    If big oil wants to “look better”, they can invest in an efficient rail or bus system for the areas that are getting hit hard by the price increases. Or do something else to help. But throwing money at *more advertising for yourselves* is hardly going to enamour the public to ya. Ick.

    -M.

  8. aixwiz says:

    Timbojones,
    Actually, supply and demand works a little differently when it comes to gasoline:
    The oil companies have the gasoline and DEMAND your money for it and you SUPPLY the money.

    Just remember they have the right to charge whatever they want for their product regardless of how much there is of it. Only when a competitor comes along that is willing to sell the product for less will they consider cutting their profits.

  9. The Unicorn says:

    But Mary Marsala, what about the PeopleMover???? It moves people! What more could you possibly want?

  10. flyover says:

    re: supply & demand
    I don’t think this answer really works when dealing with a conglomeration of multiantional businesses & NGOs which A. amount to a monopoly and B. aren’t necessarily operating on a purely capitalistic/ representitive democratic playing field.
    I agree about improving public transportation, however, gas prices are ricockulous. Seriously, I doubt my raise covers my cost of fuel increase – that’s effed up.

  11. matto says:

    I got a leaked story from a nice woman at the Petroleum Institute; she asked me to ‘embaro’ it until later, but in order to scoop my fellow bloggers, I ‘d like to announce the news that many petroleum industry companies are staffed almost entirely by cute, fuzzy puppies, kittens and bunnies.

  12. Roadgeek says:

    I guess I’ll throw a little gasoline on the fire and announce that I am very pleased with the higher gas prices; not only will the higher prices force America to start looking for alternatives but one of my mutual funds is heavily into energy and I am making big money. Everytime I see two or three Ford Subdivisions or Chevy Tahoes at my local Valero I smile. All the way to the bank. Keep on truckin!