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Find the energy to make your case, honestly

Apr 30, 2013 | 08:00 PM | John Ambrosia

It’s not news, I suppose, to point out that energy is a contentious and controversial subject in America these days. After all, when is it not?

It’s not news, I suppose, to point out that energy is a contentious and controversial subject in America these days. After all, when is it not?

Disagreements and debates over energy extraction and logistics practices have the potential, in the long run, to help or hurt the metals industry, which in recent years has come to depend on the growth and opportunities that the energy sector provides. How this ultimately plays out for the industry will have a lot to do with how metal executives react to political, economic and scientific realities.

There are plenty of good reasons for metal companies to play a role in the public debate. Markets, profitability, competition and growth of the steel tube and pipe sector all rely, to some extent, on developments in the oil country tubular goods sector.

Some steel tube and pipe executives have been suggesting for some time that they do get involved in helping shape the direction of public and political opinion on the development of energy sources. Lobbying efforts, advertising campaigns, appearances at public hearings and social media networking are all available as tools. For those metal companies that do decide to wade into these oily waters, there are some things to keep in mind:

>> Be honest. Credibility is a difficult, if not impossible, resource to win back once you’re squandered it. So tell the public and government leaders both sides of the story, but explain why you believe your side is the one to follow. If the legitimate science is on your side, say so. But if the science is murky or working against your viewpoint, don’t deny it; argue why your viewpoint overrides the concerns.

>> Show some empathy. Many of you live in the community, too; your spouses, parents, children and grandchildren have to breathe the air and drink the water, so this shouldn’t be that difficult. Understand that protesters or activists aren’t attacking you--they’re questioning whether your actions will hurt their dreams and well-being. Surely even the most profit-driven individuals can at least try to understand that.

>> Maintain your integrity. Hitch your wagon to the wrong star and you could pay for it dearly for decades to come. If you are convinced that certain energy extraction practices are detrimental, don’t hide that fact. If you believe they aren’t harmful, then say so but be prepared to back up the assertion with strong evidence and persuasive argument.

We share more than resources and communities in this country. We also share a common bond about doing the right thing for ourselves and those around us. Never lose sight of that and you will be well-served, even if it’s a little painful from time to time in the short term.