Forecasting events in Washington has a probability function akin to forecasting energy prices; chances are very good that predictions will be incorrect.
However, here are some items to continue to watch that have potential import to AAPG members.
Congress probably will be in recess by the time this EXPLORER issue goes to press and the activities of the members who are up for re-election will begin to focus in earnest on their 2008 campaigns.
There is a great likelihood that the government 2008 fiscal year, which began October 1, will begin with none of the 12 appropriations bills passed in both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president. For the agencies, that will mean that they operate for at least a portion of the year under a condition known as “continuing resolution.”
Typically continuing resolution – or in Washington-speak, “CR” – permits agencies to operate for a designated period with a budget that includes no new program approval. Most frequently, the budget that is approved is abbreviated (weeks to a couple of months) with the anticipation that Congress will be able to reach closure on passing some or all of the appropriations bills that are required to fund the federal agencies.
Current projections are for a CR that will run to mid-November. Look for CR to continue into the 2008 calendar year.
What is the impact? Most would say that when the federal government doesn’t spend money or spends less than planned, that it is a good thing. However, CR is a very wasteful process, because CR usually is accompanied with provisions that preclude eliminating unwanted federal programs or starting new ones.
In all likelihood the second session of the 110th Congress will not grapple with much of the legislation that could impact the petroleum sector – except, just possibly, in a more positive fashion.
What kind of action are we likely to see?
First, the House and Senate will continue to hold hearings on climate and energy in general but with no substantive motion toward legislation. If onerous legislation should somehow make its way through both houses of Congress, the president is likely to exercise veto power.
There also are two areas of interest to members that may see some forward motion in the form of legislation or hearing:
The depressed value of the U.S. dollar and the continued sensitivity of the supply and refining sectors have driven the price of oil to all time highs on the global markets. That likely will form the backdrop for congressional hearings on the factors that impact domestic and global markets.
Hearings in this environment provide an opportunity to bring new information to the policy makers.
AAPG and partners have endorsed a revised set of standards and definitions for petroleum reserves and resources. If U.S. and international policy makers and regulators move toward adoption of those standards, it will bring a better understanding of the endowment and availability of petroleum in the global marketplace.
AAPG can serve as a conduit to help explain these concepts and the scientific basis to Congress.
♦ The second opportunity means taking advantage of the prospect created by lawmakers who, while they may be timid about passing sweeping changes in law that impact constituents in an election year, are generally comfortable getting behind legislation that can benefit the constituents.
Having recently passed the America Competes Act of 2007, which authorizes funding for science education, the Congress may be receptive to the argument that America Competes left some gaps. While the Act provides a small measure of authorization for the geosciences – about $36 million over three years – it largely is silent on the state of the work force associated with the extractive energy and minerals sector of the economy.
AAPG’s Geoscience and Energy Office, together with a number of members, has contributed significant time and effort to preparation of material in support of a draft Energy and Minerals Schools Reinvestment Act that would fit well into the environment described above.
What will be needed is to rally individual Senate members as co-sponsors for this legislation when it is brought forward.
GEO-DC will be working with AAPG members and committees to attempt to build this support.
This is an opportunity for members to give something back to your profession by working to support the introduction of beneficial legislation that will help to guarantee the next generation of work force for these vital industries.
We look forward to working with you to build this support.