Environmental Damnation 20: Oil & Natural Gas

Closely related to Economic Damnation #9: Oil & Natural Gas Reserves and Oil Price Shocks, Oil & Natural Gas is also an environmental damnation that hits us hard on the front end and hard on the back end.

In our economic damnation post, we talked about how the almost randomly fluctuating prices that can often double or halve within a year is a damnation that can wreak havoc with your supply chain. When prices double, your costs are going up, way up, and there’s nothing you can do about it. When prices halve, if you’re in a contract, you’re losing money hand over fist, possibly both hands over both fists if there was a fuel surcharge and the supplier refuses to remove it, claiming they are still in a fuel contract with their supplier and won’t see the price drop for a year. (And that’s why you always have to tie surcharges to market rates and monitor closely.) But that’s just the beginning.

Dirty Power

Oil and Gas is dirty power. Burning oil releases dangerous pollutants into the air that pose a risk to our health, a risk to our environment, and even a risk to machinery that requires clean air to ventilate. As a result, these are pollutants that, in many countries, must be captured upon their creation during the burning process by law. This requires expensive machinery that adds to production costs, maintenance costs, and overhead costs.

Disaster Risk

Oil and gas is explosive. Very explosive. It only takes a single miscalculation and your fuel, your factory, and, possibly even your workforce goes up in a hot fiery ball of liquifying flame and all that is left at the end of the day is charred remains of melted metal and smoke.

Shortage Risk

Reserves are limited. And so is our ability to tap them. There are only so many pumping stations, so many pipelines, so many tankers, and so many people to operate them. A single delay in transportation. A single accident that shuts down a pipeline or a pumping station and your supply can be cut off for days or weeks and your production shut down for that length of time.

Oil and natural gas negatively impacts your balance sheet on acquisition, and, if something goes wrong, on transport and utilization. But, in many places, it’s sometimes the only viable energy source at the organization’s disposal. (And why an organization with the dollars should invest in its own sustainable energy production methodology, and, if located in an appropriate area, solar, wind or hydro power to minimize its dependence on oil.) So, unfortunately, for the time being, it’s a double damnation that Procurement needs to live with.