In his 2013 TEDxCalgary talk, Peter Tertzakian plays energy philosopher, reflecting on the future of the oil and gas industry through the history of the candle.
Just as the candle faced competitive assaults that eventually led to its demise as our primary source of light, so too does the oil and gas industry have a number of forces acting upon it now. And, just as it took the candle hundreds of years to be replaced, the oil industry will innovate to preserve market share. That’s how incumbents behave when challenged.
As Peter predicts in this presentation, the industry has become more competitive and efficient, resulting in a better, lower-cost product and lower emissions. Industries as entrenched and globally dispersed as oil and gas are hard to displace. And, just like the candle, will take us a while to wean ourselves from.
The story of the candle
In 1692, candlemakers saw their livelihoods threatened by new technology, including the convex lens (shown) and whale-oil lamp. So what did the chandlers of London do? Petitioned the local government to protect their interests.
But the competitive assaults kept coming: coal gas lights, then kerosene. Candlemakers fought back in an effort to make a better product at lower price. But the introduction of the light bulb marked the beginning of the end for them all.