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Monday, March 26, 2012

Don’t Blame the Oil Companies

It’s so easy to find a target to blame. Take your pick. You can blame your parents for not giving you all that you think you deserved.  You can blame the government on the housing crash.  You can blame the oil companies or the government on high gas prices, environmental issues, transportation issues, take your pick.  There’s plenty of blame to go around.

The fact of the matter is oil companies are going to be who they are.  The environmental movement is going to be who they are and you’re going to be who you are.

Speaking from a business perspective, the number one job of a business is to increase share holders wealth. If a business doesn’t make money for the shareholders there won’t be a business and therefore jobs for people. Sure you can argue that they don’t need to have that high of a return on investment but that won’t negate they they’re in it to win it, make money that is.  It would be like telling a professional athlete to shoot for second place when what he wants more than anything is to be the best.  He’s in it to win it.

What is blame anyway?  In coaching, placing blame on someone else, a situation, entity or circumstance is essentially shifting the responsibility from you onto something else.  Then you get to feel good about yourself because it’s not your fault, it’s someone else’s.

I get it. You think you’re not responsible for high gas prices.  Do you use a vehicle, taxi or bus? If so, then you’re using oil.  There are not many places in the U. S. where you can walk, bike or use a train to get to work, run errands or do all the activities you do without using fuel.  Its part of our culture and it’s not going to change overnight.  Although, with the use of the Internet and electronic devices being created at a high rate of speed you’d think our society would be transitioning more to a work from home society faster.  Now that would help our dependency on oil.

There are those people who are pushing for higher gas prices in the hope it will propel the masses to pursue alternative sources of energy.  It sounds well and good but I see two problems with that way of thinking.

1)      Adults are no different than children.  The more you push the more they’ll resist.  It’s human nature.  They have to be convinced it would be in their best interest. More important, it would be better if it were their idea.

2)      Research and Development (R&D) is always the most costly expense of any company.  No business wants to go through the time and cost of creating a product only to have it fail in one form or another. But it has to be done.  It’s no coincidence that you’ll find a new model of a car come out and then shortly thereafter another brand will come out with a similar model.  The first company took on all the R&D expense while the other companies copied the initial model and added some modifications to it, thereby forgoing the R&D cost which means more profit for the company.

The environmentalists want us to use alternative energy but it takes time, money and human energy to discover research, analyze and produce a product which has no guarantee of success.  No business that wants to be successful would take on such a task unless the research indicated that there was a viable market for it.

Oh and another thing!  If you look at history, it’s only when the rich people start using or purchasing a product that it suddenly becomes desirable and acceptable.  Take for example SUVs and furs. There was a time when both of these items were highly sought after but not so much anymore.  At first they were hard to come by due to the high price and availability of them but as the economy improved the middle class was able to afford those items too.  Therefore, if you really want people to buy into alternative energy it has to be desirable, acceptable and affordable.

So as far as placing blame on the oil companies, it’s really not their fault.  They’re doing what they do, produce oil for a profit. They’re giving us what we’re demanding. Personally I think their profit margin is too high.  Therefore, until another affordable, reliable and economical alternative is created we need to make do with what we have.  It’s basic economics.

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