After checking in to my hotel in Long Beach at the beginning of the recent annual meeting -- weary from a cross country flight -- and as I was schlepping my luggage across the lobby to the elevators, a familiar voice of a AAPG member and longstanding acquaintance from across the lobby greeted me with:
“What the (expletive) is going on in Washington and who is doing something about it?”
The reference was with regard to the fact that in the resolution of the 2007 federal budget process approximately $60 million was restored to the Department of Energy budget that could have been used --but from all indications will not be used -- to provide for oil and gas research and development and technology transfer projects, including the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council.
Adding to the general concern is the fact that once again the administration (i.e. the Department of Energy) has requested no funding for the 2008 fiscal year.
By the time this column is published, the answer to the question “where will those funds be allocated?” likely will be answered.
The prospects that the administration will reverse its efforts to phase out what has been consistently characterized as “corporate welfare for the petroleum industry,” or that Congress will intervene to provide additional direction that will ensure the use of those monies in oil and gas research seem to be very small.
Don’t for a moment believe that both the administration and the Congress are not aware of the consternation and outrage of the impacted community. Many from the academic and industry communities, plus GEO-DC, IPAA and other industry groups, have visited agency officials, congressmen and senators from both sides of the aisle to plead the case.
However, considered in the context of efforts to curtail tax provisions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, the perception that petroleum industry profitability is grossly out of line with the whole industry in the rest of the country/world, and the general low esteem with which the oil and natural gas industry is held in Washington, it should be no great surprise that all facets of industry activities are seen through jaundiced eyes by the nation’s policy makers.
Increasingly, it seems that there is a need for a new approach and redesigned strategy in how we make our case in the policy arena.
How then, should we as geoscience professionals, begin to work to change the image?
We are an organization of about 31,000 members, and while that may represent the largest single organization of petroleum geology expertise on the planet, it is not a number that impresses policy makers in Washington.
I conclude from this observation that as an organization we need to proactively seek out and enlist others of like mind and interest to both support the concept of science-based policy development and amplify the strength of the message.
AAPG member participation in the final comment period of the MMS 2007-2012, Five-Year Plan is an example of how this can work effectively. Joining with groups like IPAA, the Industrial Energy Consumers of America and the Consumers Energy Alliance you contributed about 1,500 of the 90,000 comments to MMS on opening additional Outer Continental Shelf acreage in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.
Not only was the response the largest ever in the history of the MMS process, it was the greatest positive response supporting access to additional OCS acreage in more than two decades.
Note that two of the organizations involved in the effort have the word “consumer” in their title. As the association of professional petroleum geologists, we are best qualified to speak to the science of our profession.
Many of you have heard me say on occasion that “science does not speak for itself -- it needs a spokesperson, it needs a translator and it needs context.” Who better to serve as the spokespeople, the translators and the context providers than AAPG members?
As the knowledge experts for the science, members are uniquely positioned and have the ability to add the context to work with local interest groups as spokespersons for the profession and what it has contributed to modern society on a global basis.
On an individual basis, get involved!
It will not only aid in establishing an informed public, it will pay dividends in the support that an educated public can bring to the policy process.
My thanks to the large number of members who sought me out at Long Beach to offer your views on GEO-DC. Together we have come a long way since the Houston convention one year ago.