FORT WORTH, Texas--Gen. David H. Petraeus knows a thing or two about dealing with a hostile environment.
The retired four-star general shared some military insight with an industry that too often draws opposition to its practices during a May 21 keynote luncheon at Hart Energy’s DUG Permian conference.
As opponents of hydraulic fracturing continue to push for stopping or slowing down operators, Petraeus said the industry needs to engage them.
“What we have to do is recognize that there are legitimate concerns out there, acknowledge those, pitch a big tent and try to get everybody you can inside talking,” Petraeus said.
For seven years during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Petraeus held six straight commands and became well known for the counterinsurgency military tactic “hearts and minds.” He learned how important communication was while drafting a counterinsurgency field manual for the U.S. armed forces that was used to lead efforts in Afghanistan.
In the early days of writing the manual, he held a seminar with adversarial groups: human rights organization leaders, international lawyers, coalition members and the press in order to give everyone a seat at the table.
“We might not have agreed with every single point they made, but at least we would acknowledge it and there would be dialogue,” he said. “There would be at most shouting, not shooting.”
He said an ongoing methane emission study organized by the Environmental Defense Fund and involving the industry, scientists, universities and environmentalists is a good start. The next step might be the industry allowing environmentalists to be embedded, similar to the way journalists were during the Iraq invasion.
The industry should figure out a way to give responsible environmentalists access to operations so they can observe just as reporters did, he said.
The industry may not be at war, but it is competing with the global economy, the general said. Giving the industry full access to fight for a place in the world marketplace is vital.
“It’s the only way that we’re going to be able to exploit the abilities that you all have pioneered when it comes to hydraulic fracturing, directional drilling and so forth,” he said. “It’s just too important for our country.”
The U.S. is currently in the midst of innovative transformations in manufacturing, technology and life sciences, but by far the most important is the energy revolution and the country is still in the early stages of it, Petraeus said.
“Our economy, as slow and tentative as this recovery has been, has some extraordinary advantages over the rest of the world. A lot of that is due to folks that are here in this room and others you are privileged to lead and work with,” he said.
Petraeus took a break from discussing current events at the luncheon to talk about his experiences with former president and past DUG keynote speaker—George W. Bush.
“I’ve noticed that George Bush sat here and twice,” he said. “Not that I’m competitive, but I will be back and I’ll be back one more time.”
Petraeus recalled that when he returned to the country after his service in Iraq he joined the president for a mountain bike ride that ended up resembling more of a NASCAR race. The retired general also spoke about more serious meetings with the former president during the invasion of Iraq.
“There was never a better partner for any military commander in combat, I assure you, than George Bush 43,” he said as the room responded with applause.
Petraeus spent 37 years in the U.S. military serving in Cold War Europe, Central America, Haiti, Bosnia and the Middle East.
Following retirement from the military in 2011, Petraeus served as the director of the CIA for 14 months. He has received numerous U.S. military, Department of State, NATO and United Nations awards and decorations. He also has been decorated by 12 foreign countries.
He is now the chairman of KKR Global Institute, a visiting professor of public policy at City University of New York's Macaulay Honors College and a Judge Widney professor at the University of Southern California. He is a co-chairman of the Council of Foreign Relations’ task force on North America and supports several veterans organizations.