[Editor's note: A version of this story appears in the November 2021 issue of Oil and Gas Investor magazine.]

It’s every CEO’s nightmare: an oil spill offshore California. This one stems from a pipeline leak from Beta Field. Now, ugly tar balls are washing up on the famous beaches of Orange County. Public perception of the industry takes another bad hit. As spills go, it is a relatively small one, but for the concerns it raises, it is huge.

The concerns: public opinion, the role of small-cap companies versus Big Oil and the after-effects if the Bigs divest assets to smaller-cap E&Ps.

Once again, the anti-fossil fuel crowd has been handed a gift, another powerful yet unexpected arrow for their quiver. When an incident like this happens every year or two, it cancels all the good will, good works and PR the industry has delivered during the past few years. Education is vital, but it seems to be ineffective as far as changing general public opinion to the good.

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