“Big Oil” has come to mean something other than “large international operating company.” Instead, somehow or other, there is a negative connotation of “Big Oil” that conjures up images of big business trampling the little guy and destroying the environment in pursuit of profit. That image has been front and center in the indictment of BP following the Macondo incident in the Gulf of Mexico. I am not sure BP warrants this kind of label (the Macondo blowout notwithstanding), but I am certain that all of the other major operating companies are being done a disservice when they are being painted with the same black brush. It is interesting that as the gas industry is taking off domestically, US gas companies are trying to make a name for themselves independent of the oil industry with which they have long been associated. As gas producers begin to make their way into the limelight, they are emphasizing the differences between oil and gas. Gas is cleaner than oil, creates less CO2, and might well be the primary means of creating US energy security because gas is in sufficient supply within the US to provide energy for an estimated 100 years or more. Doug Foshee, chairman, president, and CEO of El Paso Corp., talked about the virtues of gas a the Greater Houston Partnership’s Energy Summit this week. Foshee told attendees, “There is no fuel source in the United States today that uses more technology and creates more jobs than gas.” Gas helps drive our economy, Foshee said, noting that gas is environmentally friendly, is twice as clean as coal, and has the lowest carbon footprint of all of the fossil fuels. Foshee and his fellow gas producers are hoping that all of the “pluses” that accompany gas production will make gas a preferred energy source. The recent jump in E&P activity in unconventional plays in North America attests to the interest in developing natural gas. “Shale activity has exploded in the last decade,” Foshee said, noting that an increasing percentage of the gas that will make up the future supply will be unconventional. As the gas business takes off, Foshee cautioned, people should not see growth in the sector in negative terms. “Don’t presume everything big is bad,” he said. Foshee pointed to a number of encouraging statistics for natural gas, explaining that 30 US states have a least 10,000 people employed by the natural gas industry and that 3,000,000 workers in the US are working in the gas sector. Molding the public perception of gas will be critical in the coming years if the gas industry is going to garner the public support that has so far eluded “Big Oil.” Personally, I wish Foshee and his fellow gas producers well. God willing, they will slip the noose that seems to be tied firmly around the neck of oil producing companies. Perception is reality, and changing the perception that fossil fuels are the bane of our existence will not be easy, particularly when it is not only citizens of the US who perceive oil companies and what they stand for as negative. Despite the oil industry’s efforts to highlight the many positive contributions operating companies have made around the globe, many people are convinced that the bad done by these companies far outweighs the good – facts and figures be damned! Maybe gas producers will take the lead in public perception. If they make headway, there is a chance that oil producers will be able to ride on their coattails. And who ever would have imagined a world where that was the case? As the US and other countries around the world work to reduce carbon emissions and develop technologies to produce unconventional resources, gas will grow in significance. “We are on a march, which we think is inexorable, to a low-carbon footprint future,” Foshee said. I think Foshee is right. And I think gas producing companies are face to face with a great opportunity that could catapult gas production beyond anything the industry could have imagined a decade ago. Good luck and Godspeed!