Quick, name three nuclear power plants.
What word describes them?
If you are like most of the North American or European public, the names that come to mind would be “Fukushima,” “Chernobyl” and maybe “Three Mile Island.”
According to Gallup, the most common term used to describe nuclear energy is “dangerous.”
Ask the same public to name three oil or gas fields and the most common terms associated with them might be “Macondo,” “Exxon Valdez” and “Gasland.”
The public, in the developed world, focuses on only the worst cases from three out of 441 nuclear power plants, of which only one of those three, Chernobyl, caused any deaths.
Currently, nuclear facilities produce more than 10 percent of the global energy mix and have been doing so safely for decades.
Likewise, there are more than 932 giant oil and gas fields and countless total fields, yet the public perception is focused on rare disasters and celluloid fantasy.
Also, according to Gallup, the U.S. oil and gas industry, thanks to low gasoline prices, is approaching an all-time high public approval rating – a dismal 34 percent, which is only slightly above Congress at 31 percent.
A More Global Perspective
Now I would like to turn your attention to the other 82 percent of the world’s population that was not surveyed – the just over 6 billion people who do not live in a developed country.
Well over half of this population still has no access to reliable power, which is far more than the population that uses three quarters of the power generated today (that population being us). Therefore, if you are reading this, you are part of the top 18 percent of the world that uses about 55 percent of all the energy generated globally each year.
If the bottom 30 percent were asked about nuclear or oil or gas energy, they would look at it against the alternatives of charcoal or animal dung. They would ask you first, “How much does it cost?” then, “How reliable is it?” and “How much will it improve my life?”
When you are facing a daily challenge of survival, the lowest-cost form of energy is often the only viable solution.
At the COP21 accords in Paris last year, India committed to reducing future emissions, but they have also set higher production targets for coal, growing annual coal production from 550 million tons in 2016 to 1.5 billion tons by 2022. India is also signing a $4.5 billion gas pipeline deal with Iran to bring 1,112 MMSCFD to India.
Also, China is already well along on the construction of the Power of Siberia pipeline bringing 1,029 BCF per year to China.
Energy security has a much different feel if energy is less than 5 percent of your budget and you don’t even think about it not being there, as in the United States. If the cost of energy is equal to your food costs and it takes a significant amount of your time to gather your energy, then access to secure, cheap energy has much more value to you.
As I close out this year as president of the Division of Environmental Geosciences I am honored by the support and work of the great team of the Executive Committee: Vice President Bruce Smith, Secretary-Treasurer Sean Kimiagar, Editor Michele Cooney, President-Elect Tim Murin and Past President Jeffrey Paine.
I also see great challenges ahead of us as an industry with growing demands for global energy, yet with increased pressure to reduce our environmental impact. That is precisely why AAPG created the DEG and why this year we have taken the steps to recharge and revitalize the DEG Advisory Board with representatives from every AAPG Section and Region, with specialists and members with a passion for the environment.
You, the members, along with the Advisory Board and the incoming Executive Committee can make a difference. You can inform the public. You can work to secure the energy of tomorrow. And most importantly you can work to make sure that it is generated in a safe and environmentally sound manner.