Bridging the Gap Between Perspective and Reality

A perspective is “a point of view,” as opposed to a reality, which is “the true situation that exists.”

With that distinction in mind, consider the following questions with which I have been faced over the last 10 years:

  • Was the well water mixed with natural gas coming out of the kitchen spigot a result of recent drilling, or had it already been in the groundwater for decades as a result of near-surface fractures?
  • Did hydraulic fracturing on the farm really kill grandpa and some of the livestock and ruin the groundwater?
  • What impact does the exhaust from hundreds of trucks needed for each shale well have on air quality?
  • Does flowback and production wastewater contain bromine and organic matter? Once they are treated and discharged into a river, and later disinfected with chlorine for public drinking water, do they react to form trihalomethanes, some of which are known carcinogens?
  • Does deep wastewater injection and hydraulic fracturing, with associated induced seismicity, cause earthquakes, as has been seen in Youngstown, Ohio and pervasive in Oklahoma?
  • Is the industrial revolution the primary cause of global warming? Are there also climatic effects from Milankovitch Cycles which are caused by the earth’s orbit around the sun?
  • Can CO2 be safely sequestered for 1,000 years or more?

These are just some of the controversial questions affecting our world today, and topics for which scientists from industry, academia and government are working to provide accurate perspectives.

While attending the recent AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Calgary, I realized what an impact the DEG can have both domestically and internationally on environmental-related topics – on shaping the public’s collective perspective on these realities. I was fortunate to meet many from the United States, Canada, Africa, Australia and the Netherlands who share my concerns.

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A perspective is “a point of view,” as opposed to a reality, which is “the true situation that exists.”

With that distinction in mind, consider the following questions with which I have been faced over the last 10 years:

  • Was the well water mixed with natural gas coming out of the kitchen spigot a result of recent drilling, or had it already been in the groundwater for decades as a result of near-surface fractures?
  • Did hydraulic fracturing on the farm really kill grandpa and some of the livestock and ruin the groundwater?
  • What impact does the exhaust from hundreds of trucks needed for each shale well have on air quality?
  • Does flowback and production wastewater contain bromine and organic matter? Once they are treated and discharged into a river, and later disinfected with chlorine for public drinking water, do they react to form trihalomethanes, some of which are known carcinogens?
  • Does deep wastewater injection and hydraulic fracturing, with associated induced seismicity, cause earthquakes, as has been seen in Youngstown, Ohio and pervasive in Oklahoma?
  • Is the industrial revolution the primary cause of global warming? Are there also climatic effects from Milankovitch Cycles which are caused by the earth’s orbit around the sun?
  • Can CO2 be safely sequestered for 1,000 years or more?

These are just some of the controversial questions affecting our world today, and topics for which scientists from industry, academia and government are working to provide accurate perspectives.

While attending the recent AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Calgary, I realized what an impact the DEG can have both domestically and internationally on environmental-related topics – on shaping the public’s collective perspective on these realities. I was fortunate to meet many from the United States, Canada, Africa, Australia and the Netherlands who share my concerns.

As members of the Division of Environmental Geosciences (DEG), our key purposes (paraphrased from the bylaws) are to:

  • Educate the membership and general public about environmental issues associated with the petroleum industry.
  • Communicate to the public and government agencies our commitment to protect the environment while responsibly developing the world’s natural resources.
  • Support, encourage and make research available related to the effects of petroleum/energy minerals exploration and production.
  • Aid our members in multidisciplinary expertise to resolve environmental issues.
  • Promote environmental self-regulation.
  • Establish a liaison with other professional societies to address mutually attainable goals.
  • Provide educational opportunities for the AAPG membership related to environmental geoscience and related fields.

The DEG’s overarching goal should be ensuring that our opinions are based on sound, science-based research, rather than emotions, monetary benefit or how the information may impact our relationships with others. We must be sure that our perspectives have a solid foundation of facts, supported by other research and explained in a true, unbiased manner that can stand up to scrutiny from other scientists and the public.

To that end, the DEG has a number of standing committees devoted to shaping those perspectives.

They include:

  • Annual Meeting Committee
  • Publication Committee
  • Nominating Committee
  • Hydrogeology Committee
  • Environmental Geophysics Committee
  • CO2 Sequestration Committee

The Executive Committee, Advisory Board (Sections and Regions) and Committee Chairs are discussing the formation of additional ad hoc committees to cover subjects that include induced seismicity, fugitive gases, air quality and climate change.

Another goal for the Division is to become more active with the Sections, Regions, AAPG affiliated societies, young professionals, universities and students.

The Division is becoming more active at meetings by sponsoring technical oral and poster sessions, and social events like the one we co-hosted at ACE 2016 with the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists. We are also planning to hold forums, short courses, field trips and co-sponsor luncheons with the Division of Professional Affairs and Energy Minerals Division to lower the cost for attendees. Your input is important and welcomed, and your voice will be heard.

Opportunities exist to become a representative of your Section or Region, serving on a committee or becoming an officer. If you are an AAPG Member, the cost is $25. Student membership is free upon becoming an AAPG member.

“Many hands make light work,” as the 16th-century English writer John Heywood said. So, if you are not already a DEG member, please seriously consider joining. We need to help with clarifying public opinion based on misinformation.

On another note, our website underwent many improvements last year. Check it out at www.AAPG.org/divisions/DEG, and feel free to post information on our blog.

Thank you for electing me as your president for 2016-17. Also, please welcome the other DEG leaders:

  • Stephen Testa, President-Elect
  • Kristin Carter, Vice President
  • Michele Cooney, Editor
  • Secretary-Treasurer, Sean Kimiagar
  • Immediate Past President, Jeff Aldrich

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