Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Diversify or...demand your customers pay you for what they're no longer buying? What?!
Saudi Arabia is trying to enlist other oil-producing countries to support a provocative idea: if wealthy countries reduce their oil consumption to combat global warming, they should pay compensation to oil producers.

If you are selling a product that becomes obsolete, you don't get to stamp your feet and demand you get paid for the drop in your product's sales. You certainly don't get a gold star for refusing to even recognize the clear signals that your customers were looking to find alternatives to your product since it is damaging to the environment and would eventually run dry anyway. One commenter in a friend's livejournal said, "That's bloody brilliant. Are we going to compensate the Medellin cartels if cocaine sales drop, too?"

Big oil producers have, for decades, resisted the necessary and inevitable transition to renewable energy sources, not only by putting mere token efforts into researching new products themselves, but also by actively working to shut down research and work by other companies and organizations. After all, if they did enthusiastically pursue "green" energy, that might indicate some small acknowledgment that they know their current product is damaging and nonrenewable.

Yes, lately, these companies have been frantically investing in alternative energy research, because the tide is changing, and they're now realizing that they may not have the power to stop it. Now, they can claim market forces are the reason they're changing instead of having to admit that fossil fuels are problematic for long term, widespread use. You know, "Hey, we don't necessarily believe this is better, but since people want it, we'll provide the market with products."

But of course, for the oil producing countries in the article I quoted, the old business maxim, "Diversify or die," would require actual work. You know, what the rest of us have to do if our products or services become obsolete. I myself run the risk, in my small business, of market saturation, of everyone having seen what I have in to short a period of time, so I have to make sure I maintain a variety of programs, and services that evolve over time. If I hand out the same goody bags, the same postcards, the same stickers, and perform the exact same programs (with the same jokes and scripts), I will lose clientele. Do I get to go to my former clients with a hand out if they decide to stop booking me after several years in a row? Of course not--the onus is on ME to keep them interested enough to invite me back. It's on ME to make sure my material is up to date with the latest research so I don't spread misinformation. It's on ME to market myself and search out new clients. And if, by some bizarre, unforeseeable fluke, it is discovered that being within two feet of a program like mine causes cancer, it's on ME to find a new line of work.

Asking your customers to pay you because they don't want your product anymore is real chutzpah. It's also pretty asinine. I'm sorry that the Saudis have become so desperately dependent on their customers that they feel they have to do this, but the writing's been on the wall for decades. The need for green energy is not a surprise that has caught them with their pants down. It's not their customers' fault that Big Oil has, instead of acknowledging, exploring, and providing for this need when it became apparent, they fought it tooth and nail, deliberately choosing environmental destruction and corporate stagnation over environmental protection and diversity.

In my opinion, this thing that they are doing, this asking to be paid because their customers have decided to reduce their use of a globally destructive product, is evil. Evil, sick, and wrong. They do not even deserve an explanation for a refusal to pay; what they deserve is a slap in the face for even asking.

Thanks to Andrew K for alerting me to this article.

No comments: