By Catherine Reheis-Boyd
This week marked the 2021 WSPA Annual Conference, a time where the energy industry comes together to learn, listen to new perspectives, and continue our work towards an equitable, sustainable energy future. For the second year in a row, our conference was virtual. And while I missed seeing my colleagues, partners, and friends in person, I am so honored that people took time out of their busy schedules to participate in valuable, timely conversations about the future of energy in California and beyond.
Over my time at WSPA, I’ve attended and led more conferences than I can count! But this one stands out in my mind for several reasons. I can’t help but use this time to reflect on the challenges of the past year – as well as those still facing our industry today.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for so many. It’s changed the way we interact with our family, friends, and coworkers. The economic downturn hasn’t been easy on anyone. The political environment, especially here in Sacramento, has felt tumultuous, and uncertain. And our industry’s essential role of providing safe, reliable, affordable energy for everyone has never been more vital to the health and well-being of our communities.
But as we’ve seen over the last year, every Governor in every Western state – Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Arizona – has either enacted new restrictions on our businesses or has proposed new limits and regulations aimed at our industry. And, nearly every day, the Biden administration announces new plans for limiting fossil fuel production or pushing for scientifically unrealistic electrification goals.
In spite of this, we persevere. We push on. We keep innovating, creating, and working. We are here to stand for an equitable energy future. Not against it.
This year’s conference, and its talented speakers and hosts, showed me innovation and dedication to collaboration in action. We heard from renowned military leaders, academics, natural resource and geology experts, regulators, community coalitions, environmental justice representatives, and ESG and public affairs professionals. We participated in dialogues with perspectives different than our own – and we’re all the better for it.
There was a quote in our California Regulatory Roundtable that will stay with me. Samir Sheik, Executive Director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, encouraged us to remember that “leaders listen first.” We must start from a place of trust to get to a place of understanding. Leaders listen first.
As our industry evolves to meet the ever-changing needs of our world and communities, we must lead with listening and inclusivity. It is only through collaborative, inclusive innovation and thinking that we will be able to achieve the sustainable energy future that we all desperately want and need to thrive.
Our conference theme this year was Power in Everybody. And after seeing the incredible panelists, speakers, and participants in this week’s Annual Conference, I am more hopeful than ever for our future. We have the skills and the knowledge to lead and build a lower carbon future that still provides the diverse energy sources our growing communities will need more than ever.
We have the commitment to fight for a more equitable future by challenging policies that aren’t based on facts. We believe a proper evolution for energy can be had through smart, timely choices that match policy with technological, economic, and environmental priorities. This future is attainable.
My colleagues have heard me say before that “we’re in it for the long haul.” And I mean that when I say it. Because when it comes to creating a truly sustainable energy future the question isn’t if oil and gas will play a role, but what important role we will continue to play.
WSPA and the women and men of oil and gas are fighting, every day, to protect our industry’s ability to contribute to today’s energy transition. We’re in it for the long haul. This week’s Annual Conference was a reminder of our shared commitment to the common goal of an equitable energy future for all.
Stay tuned to the WSPA Resource Hub and our social media channels for more insights from the broader WSPA team on key learnings and takeaways from this year’s thoughtful event.