Work From the Middle
Wally Kandel, one of the founding members of Shale Crescent USA, Senior Vice-President and Plant Manager of Solvay was honored last week at the Marietta Chamber Dinner. Wally is being promoted and transferred out of the area. We will miss him. Wally’s experience and guidance were invaluable, especially when Shale Crescent was getting started. I personally learned a lot from him. He is a huge reason for Shale Crescent’s success. Wally’s speech was powerful. The most important take way for me was Wally’s message to always work from the middle in business or personal negotiations and take small steps. There is always common ground if we look for it. Getting agreement between people with extreme views is difficult because they are so far apart and sometimes emotionally committed to their idea.
Agreement is possible when working with people of different points of view. High school soccer season is starting. We are finishing our second week of practice. This year we have a new head coach who I was privileged to coach when he was one of our high school players. Our previous head coach for the last five years wants to watch his son play college soccer this year. His political views are different than mine but we have a lot in common. We both believe in raising people up rather than tearing them down. He is an encourager like me. He didn’t scream or yell at the boys. We focused on helping the boys succeed. Working together in the last five years our team won 5 regional championships and played in the state championship game last year in spite of a short season and all the COVID challenges.
Shale Crescent did a lot of radio interviews last year. Many of these were with hosts and listeners having different political views than ours. It didn’t matter. We were always able to find points of agreement in the middle we could work from without giving up our basic principles. I remember one host from a Chicago radio station. After some discussion she asked, “Mr. Kozera, we have a lot of empty buildings in Chicago. How can we bring back industry and create good jobs that will give our young people hope? If our young people have hope, we can end the gun violence in this city.” We discussed some ideas they could implement. We found, when it comes to creating good jobs and making essential products in the USA again for our people, we got 100% agreement. The areas where we find agreement are always in the middle.
Lynnda and I have been married for 46 years. Our basic values are the same but there are things we occasionally disagree about. We use Wally’s method. We find common ground or a common goal that is important to us both. We have discussions where we treat each other with respect and listen. We can disagree without arguing or resorting to personal attacks. This creates positive solutions and a long-term relationship
In a major negotiation Wally suggests little steps of agreement to move closer to a common goal. This takes time and patience. Leaders understand the importance of looking long term. They also understand the importance finding agreement where both parties win. They know a win/lose is ultimately a lose/lose. This is especially true in a relationship like a marriage.
This week I read, “The White House is calling on OPEC and its allies to increase oil production as gasoline prices rise.” The national average for a gallon of gasoline is $3.19, up roughly $1 over last year. Rising gasoline prices impact all of us not just for fueling our cars but in
everything we buy like groceries which travel by truck to get to us. Those hurt most are people who can least afford it, like the single mom who works with my wife and drives 120 miles daily to work and home.
This is not a difficult problem to fix and may be an opportunity for government and industry to take a lesson from Wally and “work from the middle.” Here is why;
∫ The USA has the resources to increase oil production. In recent years it was the U.S. increase in oil production that drove world oil prices down. We can lower oil prices without OPEC.
∫ The USA can produce gasoline without using oil by using natural gas liquids. Most of our local gasoline is produced using natural gas liquids from the Marcellus and the Utica.
∫ Almost all oil and gas wells require hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” as some call it. In my industry days at Halliburton I had friends in Russia, China and throughout the Middle East doing hydraulic fracturing. The process is over 75 years old, has been done millions of times. It is one small part of the process to produce oil and natural gas, like drilling. The USA has regulations and can produce oil and natural gas with the least environmental impact. The U.S. oil and gas industry works to reduce emissions from methane by finding ways to capture and sell it. In most OPEC countries methane is flared or vented in order to produce oil.
∫ U.S. oil is shipped via pipeline or truck, a short distance to a refinery. OPEC oil will need to be shipped thousands of miles on a tanker burning cheap dirty bunker fuel creating NOX, SOX and CO2 emissions.
∫ Why would OPEC be willing to produce more of their valuable oil for less money?
If industry and government started in the middle with common ground, found common goals, chose to treat each other with respect, listened with the purpose of understanding and took small steps together, it is possible to increase production and lower gasoline prices for everyone. There are trust issues to overcome since the industry feels they have been under attack from Washington. True leaders need to come together for the benefit of the American people and the planet. Thanks Wally!