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BILLINGS, Mont. -- Big Oil lost touch with consumers and must change its approach to energy development, ConocoPhillips' chairman and CEO James Mulva said at a community forum recently, The Associated Press reported. Although energy companies had a positive reputation in decades past, current opinion surveys produced low marks since gas prices skyrocketed in 2005, he said.
"Out of 25 major industries that are polled and reviewed, the oil industry ranks last -- last in credibility even behind tobacco," Mulva said. "Look, I'm not smiling. Obviously, this is of real concern to us." He added that the poll numbers were a "hard dose of reality for us."
Various factors led to the price spikes, including supply hardships, rising demand and a violent hurricane season in 2005, Mulva noted. To find solutions to energy concerns, the company held a series of community forums. It chose Billings as its first location because the company's refinery resides within the diverse city, the AP reported.
"Billings is a very progressive community, very diverse, very objective, and we think it represents the American public and the American consumers," said Mulva. "So we've got a lot of catching up to do, and we'd like to start tonight."
Energy independence is not possible, Mulva said, so the public should seek a more practical goal. "Sixty percent of energy -- liquids, oil and refinery product -- is imported," he said. "We can't change that overnight."
To secure supplies, Mulva suggested that the nation should diversify its energy by harnessing economical sources such as nuclear, wind, tar sands, biofuels, solar and coal-to-liquids technologies. Also, efficient energy use should be encouraged throughout buildings and transportation. Mulva also recommended that technology should be improved, as well as an increased awareness of greenhouse gases.
Wilbur Wood, of the Alternative Energy Resources Organization, supported an increased reliance on alternative fuels and conservation. "We think Montanans can move to end excess consumption," Woods said. "It's the best kind of investment."
The forum was developed by the Center Applied Economic Research at Montana State University-Billings.
ConocoPhillips, an integrated energy company headquartered in Houston, Texas, with operations in production, refining and marketing, operates in more than 40 countries with 38,300 employees worldwide and assets of $164 billion.