John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


What Would AmocoMan Do?

Posted on June 16, 2010
In the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, Amoco Torch magazine, at the time one of the largest circulated company magazines in the world, featured a comic strip called “AmocoMan.”

It was the story of a mild-mannered oil company employee Jeffrey Ledfrey (lead free, get it?), his long-suffering Pet dog Roleum (Pet Roleum, get it?), his girlfriend, Polly Ester (polyester is a bi-product that comes from oil), who works as a clerk with Jeffrey.

One day, Ledfrey mistakenly tasted some mysterious oil substance that had crashed into Earth from outer space, and immediately gained super-human powers.  Ledfrey decided to use those powers to defend freedom, the American way of life, and of course, to do battle against the most evil super villain, Darth Shortage.  He went to the local K-Mart, bought some tights, a tee-shirt, a hard-hat, and some safety goggles, and immediately became AmocoMan.

In the first episode, AmocoMan rescues Polly Ester from an evil plot by Darth Shortage to tie up the oil industry with so much paperwork that it could no longer drill for oil. Darth’s plot -- to create a terrible oil shortage and end civilization as we know it – was foiled by AmocoMan’s daring problem solving.

In later episodes, Jeffrey and his gang would fight battles against Jiminy Cornpone’s windfall profits tax and a variety of other stupid ideas that came from the federal government.

It was really fun to read AmocoMan every month, especially if you were a high school kid and your dad was the guy writing the strips at work.

Which is why I know about AmocoMan, because in a not insignificant way, AmocoMan put me through college.

That may explain why I was more than willing to help out BP during the current crisis as they try to get the facts out about this terrible oil spill.

The oil industry is everybody’s favorite villain.  It has long been that way.  During the 1970’s, when shortages were common, people blamed the oil industry.  When Exxon Valdez happened, the oil industry made a great villain.  Even back when John Rockefeller first tried to corner the market, titans of the petroleum industry have always been seen as the bad guys.

And that is what made my dad’s comic strip so completely original.   Casting an oil industry employee as a superhero was hilarious, counter-intuitive, brilliant, and downright subversive.

Back in the 1970’s, you could get away with that kind of comic strip.  People were more relaxed.  The three-martini lunch was the rule, not the exception.  And during Jimmy Carter’s four years as President, you needed to have a few cocktails just to survive.

You probably couldn’t get away with something as original as AmocoMan in today’s corporate culture.  Nobody really has much of a sense of humor any more.

But wouldn’t it be great if AmocoMan were around?

What would AmocoMan do?

Well, of course, he would plug the damn hole, he would clean up all the beaches, he would pay off all of the claims, and he would solve problems so that the industry could get back into the business of providing energy to the American consumer.

And he would do it as he was fighting off the evil ways of Darth Shortage.

The President has tried to do his best to make a villain out of BP, but I think even he has come to the conclusion that he needs them as much as they need him.

There is a problem that needs to be solved (actually several problems that need to be solved), and finding villains and demonizing BP is really counter-productive.

Banning off-shore drilling in the Gulf not only puts thousands of people in the gulf out of work, it also will make us even more reliant on foreign oil.  Taking overly harsh steps to “punish” BP may make the President’s men feel better about themselves, but it makes it harder for BP to pay off all the claims that are coming in from the region.  Driving the company to financial ruin may make the left feel fine, but it makes millions of shareholders (many of whom have BP stock in their pension funds) cry.

What AmocoMan would do was find a way to fix the problems first.

The President is no superhero, as we have all figured out by now, but he can learn a lesson from AmocoMan.  Focus first on fixing the problems.   Worry about the politics later.

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