Editor’s Notebook: Public Relations

July 2014, Vol. 241, No. 7

Do you want to know who the real faces of the oil and gas industry are? It’s not the Koch boys, Rex Tillerson, Boone Pickens or Aubrey McClendon.

It’s this middle-aged guy named Jim who makes his living driving a cab in Pittsburgh that runs on natural gas. It’s Nick Jentzsch, a 25-year-old service man for Questar Gas in Utah who happened to save a life during what was supposed to be a routine leak check.

I was in Pittsburgh in late May attending the annual American Gas Association Conference held at the historic William Penn Omni. It’s always a great conference because those who attend work closest to the customer than anyone else in our industry. They also represent the only real diversity that we have.

So, Friday morning I decide to take cab to the airport and here comes Jim, a burly well-traveled fellow who seems able to make friends with anyone he meets. I told him about the gas conference and his ears perked up because he loves natural gas, even though the compressed natural gas canister takes up a good chunk of the rear of his leased van.

“Natural gas is the best thing going for us up here,” Jim told me on our 30-mile drive. “I can easily put on 250-300 miles a day but it only costs me $30 to refill my tank. If I used gasoline it would cost $60 a day. I’ve never had any trouble with it. You can see for yourself how quiet and clean it is. The only problem is that there are only a few places where you can fill up, but we have an online system that tells us where we can go and it’s getting better all the time.”

Jim is also delighted that the fuel he’s using comes from Pennsylvania’s home-grown Marcellus Shale. He said the development has been nothing but good for the people of the Keystone State and is stunned when I tell him the best is yet to come. He doesn’t understand why anyone would oppose this, and said that no-nonsense Pennsylvanians discount their groundless propaganda.

Then we’re at the airport in what seems like record time. “Thanks for the great conversation,” Jim said. “No, Jim. Thank you for telling me how important natural gas really is.”

Then we have the story of Nick Jentzsch, the Questar Gas service man who received AGA’s Meritorious Service Award and a standing ovation from the thousand attendees. Here’s the story from the March 2013 incident which was heavily reported by the local media.

Nick was called out to a routine appliance leak at a residential customer’s home. As soon as he arrived, he pulled out his carbon monoxide detector which indicated high levels of carbon monoxide on the main level of the home. He immediately evacuated a woman and her two children. Then she told Nick that her brother was somewhere in the basement.

There was no access to the basement from the upper floor of the home, so Nick raced to the back of the house and entered the basement from an exterior door. He quickly detected dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide at the basement entrance. As he searched the basement, Nick found an unconscious man lying on the bathroom floor.
The man outweighed the slightly built Nick by at 50 pounds, but undaunted, he carried the man upstairs and into the driveway where he had the man’s sister call 911. Nick performed CPR until paramedics arrived. The responding fire chief told a Questar Gas foreman that Nick’s actions saved the man’s life.

Afterwards, Nick said he had no hesitation at all as he went into the house, searched for the man and provided him with first aid. When he saw that he faced an emergency, he said his training took over and he realized immediately what he needed to do to save the man.

Those at Questar who know Nick say he is quiet and unassuming. They and the industry have every reason to take great pride in Nick because he and untold numbers like him represent the very best of what our industry has to offer.

I’ve often said that the industry doesn’t need to hire $200-an-hour PR suits to get the message out, not when you have people like cabbie Jim who fully appreciates the benefits of natural gas, and Nick Jentzch, whose job it is to ensure that it is safely delivered. I guarantee you that people would listen.

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