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Treating Symptoms Is Not a Cure

Financial news headlines these days proclaim a raging bull market in commodities.

Central bankers chew their fingernails at the release of each new inflation estimate, while speculators rack up unbelievable profits (unless on the wrong side of a trade). And consumers groan every time they fill up their gas tank.

This has brought politicians to the rescue, seeking quick cures to the problem of high prices.

But we need to treat causes rather than symptoms. The need for coherent policies for petroleum, coal and minerals has never been greater.

And in these sectors AAPG members can make significant contributions.

One of our primary goals at GEO-DC is to help policy makers make better decisions. Fortunately, we are not alone – three studies released this year by prominent and respected sources are providing opportunity to engage policy makers on minerals, coal and petroleum.

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Financial news headlines these days proclaim a raging bull market in commodities.

Central bankers chew their fingernails at the release of each new inflation estimate, while speculators rack up unbelievable profits (unless on the wrong side of a trade). And consumers groan every time they fill up their gas tank.

This has brought politicians to the rescue, seeking quick cures to the problem of high prices.

But we need to treat causes rather than symptoms. The need for coherent policies for petroleum, coal and minerals has never been greater.

And in these sectors AAPG members can make significant contributions.

One of our primary goals at GEO-DC is to help policy makers make better decisions. Fortunately, we are not alone – three studies released this year by prominent and respected sources are providing opportunity to engage policy makers on minerals, coal and petroleum.

  1. In October 2007 the U.S. National Academy of Science (NAS) issued a report titled Minerals, Critical Minerals and the U.S. Economy.

    While the federal government collects information on domestic and international mineral sources, it does not have a method to determine which are “critical,” where supply disruptions could have significant economic and national security impact. The report presents such a methodology and recommends the federal government bolster efforts to collect and maintain such information.

    Last year, in the 109th Congress, AAPG’s Energy Minerals Division endorsed H.R. 6080, the Resources Origin and Commodity Knowledge (ROCK) Act, which would support these goals. In the 110th Congress we anticipate action on a new version of the ROCK Act, and EMD is again supportive.

  2. The United States is frequently described as the “Saudi Arabia of Coal.” But what data is this moniker based on – and is it accurate?

    Coal: Research and Development to Support National Energy Policy, a NAS study released in June 2007, investigates this question. Read it at http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11977.

    An important finding of the study is that while there are significant uncertainties in U.S. coal reserve and resource estimates, there is sufficient coal at current consumption to last until 2030 – and likely for more than 100 years. However, there is a real need for more “upstream” coal research to increase our understanding of the resource base.

    Currently, over 90 percent of federal R&D spending for coal is on the “downstream” side, focused on utilization, carbon capture and sequestration, and transport and transmission. Only 10 percent goes to mining and processing, environment/reclamation, reserve assessment, and safety and health.

    AAPG’s coal geologists have a lot to offer, and we welcome your views on this issue.

  3. In September 2007 the National Petroleum Council released the final version of its long-awaited report Facing the Hard Truths About Energy.

    AAPG members made significant contributions to this analysis of global oil and natural gas through 2030. The report concludes that while the world is not running out of energy, there are significant challenges that could prevent these resources being the “sufficient, reliable and economic energy supplies upon which people depend.”

This report impacts all AAPG members, and we encourage you to read it.


A cautionary note raised in all three reports concerns the future work force.

In 1991 the median age of AAPG’s membership was 41; in 2001 it was 48; and in 2006 it was 53.

Our Association isn’t unique. The minerals and mining geologists as well as the petroleum and mining engineers all face similar demographics.

But what do we do about it?

GEO-DC is collaborating with a broad coalition of organizations to develop legislation, the Energy and Minerals Schools Reinvestment Act, to rejuvenate the nation’s petroleum and mining engineering and applied geology and geophysics programs.

The focus is on faculty and students, and providing the resources necessary to train up the next generation of geoscientists and engineers. It is an important step in dealing with this demographic trend.


Finally, another important GEO-DC goal is to provide AAPG members with opportunities to get involved in the policy-making process.

Mark your calendars for March 4-5, 2008, and join us here in Washington, D.C., for Congressional Visits Day. You’ll visit with policy makers and their staff to talk about issues important to AAPG members, such as:

  • Creating policies that deal with causes rather than symptoms.
  • What is the antidote to high oil prices?
  • More efficient use of the resources we have.
  • Enabling us to increase supply by increasing land access and training the future work force.

Come join us, and join the debate.