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Julianne Geiger

Julianne Geiger

Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.

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Millennials Really Do Ruin Everything, And Big Oil Is Next


It sounds harsh, but it’s true: millennials really do ruin everything. And the oil industry will be no exception. From talent acquisition to courting investors, to finding new end uses for petroleum, the oil industry is facing a whole new set of challenges—one that extends far beyond geopolitical risk premiums and barrel prices.

Oil companies who are quicker to adapt to this changing of the guard will have first pick of investment dollars and top talent, while those who are slow to change will get the leftovers.

You’re Dead To Me

Read some headlines (or some memes if that’s more your speed). There are hundreds of headlines and one-liners that tell of the serial killing nature of millennials. The death knell has tolled so far for straws, napkins, diamonds, home buying, cable television, stock trading, and even breakfast cereal—at least as we once knew it.

Some of those on the dead-to-me list are there simply because they have been replaced with new technology that is simply more convenient, like the shift from cable TV to Netflix. Others wound up on the list because they were shunned by the generation that likes to take the high ground.

And it is this high ground that has placed the oil industry in the millennial crosshairs. The image, quite simply, of the oil industry can be summed up with a single word: “dirty”. Oil companies wishing to woo the millennial workforce and investment dollars will have to work overtime to shed this moniker.

And Big Oil is starting to head down this road, but it isn’t quite far enough.  

Between the Moral High Ground and Convenience

Millennials are not just about taking the high ground. If you look at their buying and investment choices, it’s not just about shunning things that are bad for the environment, bad for things or people who are exploited, or detrimental to their health. Much of the time, millennials are about what’s practical or convenient. Online shopping, grocery delivery, next-day delivery, Uber Eats, Peloton, etc., are all great examples of goods and services that have met millennials where they are, instead of banging their head against the wall and trying to convince millennials they have what they want. Related: Where Is The World's Safest Source Of Oil?

Companies who fail to live up to the generation’s lofty moral ground may still be able to meet their expectations for ease of use and convenience. For oil, this is tricky, because end use is multifaceted and intertwined in the transportation, plastics, and asphalt sectors—all of which the oil industry should be helping to prop up by meeting millennial needs within these sectors.

For talent acquisition, the climate unfriendly nature of the oil industry puts companies in this genre on the back foot, but the practical side of millennials gives the oil industry a rare opportunity, if they are willing to take advantage of it. Boldness and new-way pavers are needed who are not afraid to try and fail. And if oil can’t convince millennials that they are climate-friendly, they most assuredly have to offer something—or some things--that millennials need. This can be work/life balance, an easily climbable career ladder, work-from-home options, and premium on-the-job training. The oil industry might have a tough time convincing millennials that their jobs “mean something”, but they absolutely can tick all the other boxes.

Other industries are already doing most of those things, and the oil industry has too. But still, oil finds itself playing second fiddle to tech, because that’s just sexier. But oil and tech both have deep pockets, and the millennial generation has deep school debt. In fact, millennials have more school debt than any other generation. This is practically a marriage made in heaven. Paying off these student loans is a hot hot benefit, and has the ability to override other concerns about working in the oil industry.

Big Oil Doesn’t Instagram Well

Are you offering this generation an experience? Because other industries are. This generation is all about the experience (which can be Instagrammed or Snapchatted), and they will choose these experiences over things any day of the week. We already know that millennials love to share pics of where they are and what they’re doing, but it might be more important than many realize. Related: Home Energy Storage Capacity Breaks Records In US

The basic rule is that if it’s not worth sharing with the world online, it’s not worth doing—period. And research shows that millennials are influenced by what others are posting in a FOMO kind of way. Cool brands that are inherently cool such like Apple, Microsoft, Google, or Tesla have so much interest when it comes to job seekers that they don’t have to try very hard at all.  Those brands are not short on investors, either. Maybe you don’t have this cool brand recognition that millennials would like to brag about online. You can still do cool things that will make millennials want to share you with the world that will, in turn, attract other millennials who don’t want to miss out.

Are your current employees and recruiters creating shareable experiences that others will want to be a part of? Shareable moments include corporate outings, cruises, swag, social events, and community engagement. 

Willing to Do the Homework

For job hunting, millennials are willing to research everything, and they rely heavily on online reviews for their decision-making. We’re talking about Glassdoor, Indeed, Comparably, and Great Place to Work, among others. This has increased transparency in the job market, but more than this, it is a great tool for employers to use to see how they stack up—and if they don’t stack up, to look at the competition and see why—and then change accordingly.

Millennial Investments 101

Millennials are not investing the same way as the previous generations did. They are generally debt laden and risk averse. Their favorite long-term investment? Cash—if you want to call that an investment. Every other generation has preferred stocks.

For the ones that do invest in the stock market, their trading prowess is somewhat lacking. Unlike job hunting, where millennials are willing to do their research, millennials seem to pick brands they know—not necessarily ones that have upside potential. They are also socially conscious investors who tend to put their dollars into something they perceive is a worthy cause.


This risk aversion, brand recognition, and environmental activism puts fossil fuel investments on shaky ground.

The Influences of Today May Bring Down the House

Colleges are influencing the current generation of students, and it’s not pretty for the oil industry. There are mandatory sustainability classes for many degrees, and students often come away with just this one side of the energy puzzle. Engineering departments and business departments are not the oil industry’s friend, who pick and choose which businesses to invite in for special talks and Q&A sessions—and oil companies are like the scrawny kid in gym class that always got picked last.

But it’s far worse than not being invited to speak on campus: college campuses are even blacklisting speakers who even have ties to the oil industry. And this is what the industry must battle. Unless you are one of the biggest of the big such as BP or Shell, many college kids might not even know who you are. Think you can start even younger, to reach high school students? Wrong. Today, high school students are even getting excused absences to protest the “climate emergency”, for which the fossil fuel industry often shoulders 100% of the blame. Even elementary students are inundated with energy consciousness in their science curriculums that often spills over into clear Keep It In the Ground sentiment.

The trend is clear, the oil industry really does have a millennial problem—and it won’t be fixed overnight.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Dan Pearson on September 22 2019 said:
    So, what is the answer to save the oil companies if the millennials are dead set on destroying oil/gas companies, but millennials also do not want to give up their cell devices, and many others everyday products that come from oil/gas.

    Millenials cannot have it both ways. So again how will this play out?
  • Michael BERGER on September 22 2019 said:
    That's ok, they and the next generation are more likely to reduce or eliminate their reliance on oil for transportation.
  • Norm Young on September 22 2019 said:
    Best take a tack like Statoil did, now Equinor. They are looking to address the offshore wind power market, which in the U.S. is 7200 terawatt-hours, or about double the current consumption of electricity in the US market in total. It's something that appeals to both investors and millennials who want to work in that space. Investors because they want to be invested in something that has a future, and millennials because they are going to bear the brunt of global climate change if we don't accelerate our move away from carbon heavy fuels.
  • Daniel Williams on September 23 2019 said:
    The planet is approaching a period of irreversible decline if the morally vacant and/or intrinsically evil system of money-grabbing, politically insidious wholesale theft of the planet's future and everyone on it is allowed to continue.

    For planning purposes, the city of New York is preparing for 2 meters of sea level rise by 2100. All the coral reefs in the world have now died. We are going to be living on a dead and dying world, with nothing to stop the collapse.

    I think its a bit blasé to appeal to reader's sympathy of those who are in effect sociopaths.
  • Johnny Smith on September 23 2019 said:
    "Colleges are influencing the current generation of students, and it’s not pretty for the oil industry. There are mandatory sustainability classes for many degrees, and students often come away with just this one side of the energy puzzle."

    Rightttt, lets ignore the oil spills, carbon released into the atmosphere, finite resources, and our reliance on authoritarian governments for supply. Younger generations are right to invest in the future which wont be oil based.
  • Dan Pearson on September 23 2019 said:
    For what its worth, about 5,000 years ago sea level was about 1.5 meters higher than it is now. And about 120,000 years ago sea level was about 8 meters higher than present level (formed the Suffolk Scarp easily depicted from the ground or from satellite and NASA images).
  • Tom Mathers on September 23 2019 said:
    Instead of blaming a generation, we should be focusing on solutions and working together. We need to see more unbiased news and just factual journalism. It should be your job to just simply report. “News” like this is shameful and Juliane Geiger should use her talent for something more helpful to the world instead of the oil industry. Wars have been fought for oil and greed and I think it’s great to see a generation to stand up for global prosperity.
  • Roy Zweng on September 23 2019 said:
    This honestly has to be some kind of joke as this person or opinion can't actually exist. I'm guessing this is some grad student's AI experiment to see what kind of paper and fake persona an artificial intelligence can invent for defending something as indefensible as Big Oil. Not that the other climate extreme is any better (see the apoplectic millennial's comment "all coral reefs have already died"). But come on, a similarly insane article is not the answer to make things better.
  • Jeffrey Pickett on September 23 2019 said:
    The student debt is the tenured professor lifeline. The gentrification indoctrination into the Cultural Marxist dystopia and the eventual collapse of both without a bailout for the hundreds of trillions of unsecured debt throughout the world aka quadrillion. Another delusional socialism piece for the "bait and switch" scam called progressivism. Only the ignorant or paid off journalist believes the Soros Central Bankers care about these "useful idiots". Population is the problem as soon as they have to answer to no one, thus martial law always part of the package. "The Dreamers" collateral damage on the enticed trail of tears. Like endangered species destroyed from a wind turbine or carbon credits for the rich. Dumber than dirt by design.
  • Jeffrey Pickett on September 23 2019 said:
    Also, Unfunded Liabilities and Derivatives will not be solved by "The Emperor's Clothes" cryptocurrency. QE4 the final phase to this Luciferian end game. Thirsty and hungry people do what they are told with little to protect themselves. Do they even teach world history anymore?
  • Ryan Dietrich on September 23 2019 said:
    Crazy to see how completely removed from reality gen x and baby boomers are. The levels of warming and co2 emission are already at crisis level and everywhere on this planet the effects of climate change are being felt. Its not some populist left wing conspiracy, it is backed by over a century worth of publicly collected data. Its already contributing to prolonged droughts, coral reef die offs, mating pattern disruptions of some animals, melting ice shelves in the artic etc. And it was the complete inaction of past generations that has led to this point. Global temperatures have noticeably been rising since the 70s and its just now being taken with any seriousness. Bash on young people all you want at least they can listen to undeniable evidence instead of reactionary populist opinions. This shit didnt happen overnight, its just now to a point where it can't be ignored anymore.
  • Lee James on September 24 2019 said:
    From burning wood -- to burning coal --- to burning petroleum -- to something else.
  • Sudarshan Choubey on September 25 2019 said:
    I am a millenial, I love driving cars. I love the oil industry for enabling that.
  • Brent Jatko on September 26 2019 said:
    Leave it to millennials to clean up the mess we selfish Boomers created.
  • Watt Harrison on September 28 2019 said:
    The author may have baited a few triggered millennials into revealing their zeitgeist.

    Narcissistic and self serving lacking humility, not trying to criticize but understanding each sides dead-list. I agree w/ author that their dead-list & want-list will provide a strategy for identifying the “Oil-based” needs of millennials, for they aren’t immune from their wants, just a bit brash. I hope author continues in future to provide further insights of this behavioral phenomenon(for it isn’t new, history just repeats itself).

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