Congress returns to work this month after its August recess – and if legislators feel a sense of déjà vu, it is because their agenda includes many issues left unresolved in June and July.
Chief among them is dealing with high energy prices.
There is no doubt that senators and representatives, while spending the past month at home with their constituents, heard much about the pain caused by high gasoline prices. Americans are demanding action, and lawmakers are dutifully responding with lots and lots of action. But they aren’t making much progress.
During June and July hardly a week passed without some new piece of energy legislation tackling access issues, production tax credits, the role of speculators and so on. Each bill offered ideas – some new, some repackaged – to deal with the energy crisis.
Few sponsors of these bills expected them to be enacted – but introducing these ideas allowed them to be vetted, identifying strengths and weaknesses. That’s good, because some of them may form the core of future legislation that receives serious consideration.
But this summer was not a time for serious consideration, and that time probably won’t arrive for several more months. After all, this is an election year. The press conferences, votes held and others blocked, charges and counter-charges are all about political positioning ahead of the November election rather than accomplishing anything.
So what is an AAPG member who is a U.S. citizen to do?
If ever there was a time to contact your legislator about energy issues, it is now. Visit their local offices or send them a letter.
Later this month, several AAPG members will be in Washington, D.C., for geoCVD (Congressional Visits Day) to meet with their lawmakers and staffs and begin that kind of dialog.
Here at GEO-DC we are doing the same thing, both responding to inquiries and creating opportunities to present fact-based science and thereby inform the policy making process.
One such opportunity occurred on July 11, when AAPG leaders asked me to participate in an energy forum in the Senate. Six Republican senators attended the event, spending two full hours with the four panelists, asking questions on a variety of topics. My topic was the exploration and development potential of the outer continental shelf.
Other panelists included:
- Marvin Odum, president of Shell Oil, discussing oil shale development.
- David Vieau, CEO of A123 Systems, talking about plug-in hybrid vehicles.
- Kevin Book, senior energy policy analyst with FBR & Co., covering energy markets.
We continue to look for such opportunities at the federal level. But it is important to remember that dealing with high energy prices is not just a federal issue, it is also hitting state governments very hard. So while the turmoil persisted in Washington, GEO-DC headed to New Orleans in late July for the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) 2008 Legislative Summit.
This annual event plays host to more than 8,000 people from across the nation and the world. The attendees included state legislators, senior legislative staff, federal and state agency personnel, as well as government affairs professionals from corporate and non-profit organizations.
More than 300 organizations exhibited at the meeting, representing a remarkable diversity of interests and topics.
For the second year in a row, AAPG’s Division of Professional Affairs (DPA) had its own booth at NCSL. Rick Ericksen, DPA president, Carl Smith, DPA Government Affairs Committee chair, Don Juckett, GEO-DC’s founding director, and I represented the Association and division at the event.
Many of the attendees wanted to talk about the high price of crude oil and its impact on their constituents back home. We, in turn:
- Expressed the Association’s views as articulated in AAPG’s statements.
- Provided information on the science and process of finding oil and natural gas.
- Talked about our role as a scientific and professional association.
In order to encourage attendees to provide us with their business cards – and thanks to Don Juckett’s handiwork – we held a drawing for two mounted ammonite specimens. I am working with Carl Smith to follow-up with our booth visitors.
Incidentally, the winners of the drawing were Dale Stephens, member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, and Daniel A. Eaton, majority floor leader of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Congratulations to both!
Our attendance at NCSL was a good reminder that engaging policymakers on energy and environmental issues should not be restricted to the federal level. In fact, getting involved at the state level often can have immediate and significant impact.
As Rick Ericksen indicated in the July EXPLORER column, DPA is providing its members with a new tool to monitor state-level legislative activity. Meanwhile, at GEO-DC we continue to mainly focus on federal legislation, assisting at the state level as opportunities arise.
Unquestionably, lawmakers at all levels of government need the science-based facts and experience that AAPG and DPA members can uniquely provide. We also have the tools to do it properly. Now together we need to help federal, state and local lawmakers turn action into progress.