Ask a business leader what their most important asset is, and the answer will typically be: our employees. That answer rings especially true for the domestic energy industry, where the ability to manufacture affordable and reliable natural gas and oil hinges on continually developing the next generation of workers and leaders.
So, getting out there and engaging with students in engineering and science who are about to enter the workforce is time well spent.
When it comes to producing high-potential future leaders of the natural gas and oil industry, you’d be hard-pressed to find a program as effective as Texas A&M (TAMU). So when the TAMU Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) student chapter asked me to spend an evening with them, my response was immediate and affirmative.
Off to College Station, where the SPE student chapter turned out, led by officers Kassem and Teresa. Ready to cover industry, technology, and career. After a few minutes, one couldn’t help but be bullish on the prospects of this next generation of industry leaders. Domestic energy nirvana!
We discussed how natural gas is a catalyst fuel for the future, not a bridge fuel with a near end. Addressed the importance of tabulating the true life-cycle carbon footprints of different energy sources when setting policy and making decisions, and how natural gas stacks up favorably compared to wind and solar on Scopes 1-3 CO2e. Examined what’s going on in the exciting Appalachian basin and how the Appalachia First vision is a blueprint not just for one basin, but also for others and the nation.
We thought through how the timing of two opportunities for domestic natural gas demand growth, LNG export and vertical market capture of transportation fuels, should be logically sequenced. Domestic natural gas displacing foreign-sourced gasoline/diesel/jet aviation fuel should come first since it is the superior opportunity on a carbon footprint reduction, supply chain shrinkage, energy cost savings, and human rights improvement set of metrics. LNG export will have its time, but only after domestic natural gas seizes the transportation market opportunities.
ENSURING THE WALK IS CONSISTENT WITH THE TALK
We traded thoughts on career and culture. Strong culture must ensure the ‘walk’ of decision-making is consistent with the polished ‘talk’ of stated company values. We discussed how the most crucial types of diversity are those of thought and background; when you strive for that duo and couple them with a true meritocracy, physical diversity should be an expected result.
I could sense students sought assurance of solid future career prospects for professionals in the domestic natural gas and oil industry. It’s not hard to deduce why. The steady, ideological drumbeat of messaging by some outside the industry is that the future economy will not require these life-sustaining fuels. I hope that after the evening’s discussion, those concerns were put to bed and students left excited about how the demand for their skills and our products will skyrocket into the future.
AIM TO DO YOUR DUTY
“Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail.”
– THOMAS JEFFERSON
Toward the end of the evening, I left a couple of closing thoughts.
The first spoke to the duty of students to live up to the legacy of TAMU, epitomized by two great individuals. General James Rudder graduated from TAMU in 1932, later led the unprecedented Army Ranger assault on the cliffs of Point du Hoc in Normandy during World War II, and ultimately became President of TAMU and grew it into the iconic institution of today. And George Mitchell, who graduated from TAMU in 1940 and became the father of the shale revolution, made enormous positive impacts on the human condition. Giants who started on the same ground where these students stand today.
The second closing thought pertained to the Aggie Adage: “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” By the time I left campus and that special place, I got it. But one of my objectives for the evening was to convince the students and faculty that leaders in the energy industry carry a responsibility that is the inverse to the Aggie Adage: leaders inside the domestic energy industry have a duty to explain so those outside the industry understand. I hope they got it.
Gig ‘em, Aggies!