The AAPG officer year ends July 1, so this is my last opportunity to highlight issues relevant to DEG and acknowledge many valuable contributions from the DEG team during the year.
So far, we’ve discussed:
- The need to move our industry from one that largely reacts to unintended consequences, real or perceived, to one that anticipates issues (September).
- The importance of maintaining our social license to operate (December).
- The need to encourage open discourse on environmental topics in formal and informal publication venues (March).
All I would like to add to these is this month’s comment on the relationship between issues the industry faces and a role DEG can continue to fulfill as some of these issues reach the general public’s awareness.
Here’s a current example: There have been many articles in various news outlets in recent days, weeks and months about induced seismicity in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and elsewhere, along with various opinions about the relationship between seismic events and oil and gas activities.
Earthquakes, no matter the size, make good news fodder. I’m sure you’ve seen or heard more than one recent piece in some media outlet with a sensational (and perhaps inaccurate) headline, lots of opinions expressed – and relatively little accurate and unbiased information.
This seems to be the way public opinion is shaped on most any hot topic: There is quite a bit of early, incomplete information to feed the public’s interest, and this early activity disproportionately shapes society’s attitude and ultimate response.
The sinking of the Lusitania 100 years ago was accompanied by intense media interest and influenced the United States’ eventual participation in World War I. And yet a century later, in 2015, two extensively researched books were published on the subject, revealing new information about the event.
Unfortunately, accurate and defensible information on complex subjects commonly takes a while to develop, prepare and disseminate. By the time the necessary investigations are done, the information is reviewed for accuracy and the results released to the public, the media and the public have moved on to subsequent sensational events and few news purveyors remain interested in “the rest of the story.”
Organizations like DEG, through our website, newsletter, meetings, journal and white papers, can help fill the huge gap between the daily news cycle (which largely shapes public opinion) and comprehensive scientific study that necessarily proceeds at a more stately pace.
To do that effectively, it is imperative that organizations like DEG preserve scientific neutrality, avoid advocacy and make our collective knowledge accessible to the public.
It is a tall order, but one that could greatly improve the relationship between the energy industry and society at large.
As my term as DEG president comes to a close, I would like to acknowledge the contributions of many who helped make this a productive and satisfying year. Those individuals include officers Jeff Aldrich (who will become president July 1), Steve Tischer (secretary/treasurer), Dirk Nieuwland (vice president), Michele Cooney (Environmental Geosciences editor), Kristin Carter (newsletter editor) and Doug Wyatt (past president); committee chairs Laurie Whitesell, Doug Peters, Charlotte Sullivan and Gene Murray; advisory board members Tim Murin, Allen Waggoner, Quin Baber, Anne Fix, Mary Harris and Chris Liebli; and Norma Briggs, the glue that keeps it all together as the AAPG division manager.
Doug Peters led development of the environmental program at the Annual Convention and Exhibition in Denver, John Hughes organized the environmental aspects of the International Conference and Exhibition being held in Melbourne this fall and Bruce Smith (incoming vice president) and Mike Jacobs (past president and advisory board member) helped organize the DEG sessions on environmental geophysics in the oilfield at SAGEEP.
Doug Wyatt also led a team that produced a soon-to-be-released white paper on hydraulic fracturing, a subject in need of timely, dispassionate and accurate information in the space between the daily news cycle and the peer-reviewed literature.
These are but a few examples of acts worthy of acknowledgment. We couldn’t have done much this year without contributions from all!