Healthy profits, an upswing in exploration and a dose of bright and crisp Tuscan weather had the crowds at Baker Hughes’ annual meeting in Florence feeling upbeat.

And who could blame them? After the geopolitical convulsions of the past year, the oil and gas industry — long used to being vilified — now finds itself back on the offensive, the energy crisis giving some heft to the industry’s argument for the role of natural gas in the energy transition.

In a panel discussion bearing that precise name, industry officials made the case for gas in the future energy mix — and right now, as a lower-carbon alternative to an alarming rise in global coal use.