AAPG at the Crossroads Part II: Choosing the Path

“There’s no end to the good you can do, if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

And when responsible, knowledgeable AAPG leaders work together, members and their Association inevitably benefit.

My letter to AAPG members in the January EXPLORER (“AAPG at the Crossroads”) laid out a course implementing AAPG’s Strategic Plan and moving the Association toward a true international identity in the coming years, recognizing that, in the present global energy transition, the alternate course – the status quo – is to surrender world E&P leadership and to be bypassed (as merely a regional association) on the global energy stage.

I identified three problems the Association needed to address and solve:

  1. Establish a new vice president (Regions) on AAPG’s Executive Committee to speak for our international members, who historically have been notably under-represented on the EC.
  2. Encourage AAPG membership growth in low-income situations by adopting a graduated dues scale based directly or indirectly on “ability to pay.”
  3. Simplify and streamline application procedures for international geoscientists to apply for AAPG membership.

I am very proud of AAPG leaders from the House of Delegates (HoD), the Advisory Council (AC), the Executive Committee (EC) and the Tulsa-based administration (HQ), who all have been working to address these problems. This letter, which you will read in early March (while I am traveling in the Far East to promote international membership in Australia, Malaysia, China and India), will update AAPG members as to the status of the leadership’s responses to my requests.

You will see that lots of good folks have been usefully busy, and the Association is being very well served. Things are working.

Some U.S. members, especially independents, might be concerned that this recommended global course implies that AAPG will, in the future, de-emphasize their interests. In my mind, nothing could be farther from the truth. In its conferences, publications, short-courses and services, AAPG will continue to provide strong coverage related to U.S. E&P issues, developments and technologies. The recent establishment of GEO-DC, in Washington, D.C., is an example.

But U.S. members need to understand that E&P globalization means more opportunities for them – as international venturers and consultants, as professional users of technologies developed overseas and applied in the United States and as students of geotechnical concepts and models that originated in other countries.

This should not be an “us versus them” issue.


At its Dec. 1, 2005, teleconference, the Executive Committee recognized that improving membership application procedures did not require legislative action. This could be handled administratively, and Executive Director Rick Fritz is giving first priority to this issue through AAPG’s Member Services Department.

The EC also approved the concept of a new vice president for international affairs, but deferred to the HoD on the question of a system for graduated dues.

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“There’s no end to the good you can do, if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

And when responsible, knowledgeable AAPG leaders work together, members and their Association inevitably benefit.

My letter to AAPG members in the January EXPLORER (“AAPG at the Crossroads”) laid out a course implementing AAPG’s Strategic Plan and moving the Association toward a true international identity in the coming years, recognizing that, in the present global energy transition, the alternate course – the status quo – is to surrender world E&P leadership and to be bypassed (as merely a regional association) on the global energy stage.

I identified three problems the Association needed to address and solve:

  1. Establish a new vice president (Regions) on AAPG’s Executive Committee to speak for our international members, who historically have been notably under-represented on the EC.
  2. Encourage AAPG membership growth in low-income situations by adopting a graduated dues scale based directly or indirectly on “ability to pay.”
  3. Simplify and streamline application procedures for international geoscientists to apply for AAPG membership.

I am very proud of AAPG leaders from the House of Delegates (HoD), the Advisory Council (AC), the Executive Committee (EC) and the Tulsa-based administration (HQ), who all have been working to address these problems. This letter, which you will read in early March (while I am traveling in the Far East to promote international membership in Australia, Malaysia, China and India), will update AAPG members as to the status of the leadership’s responses to my requests.

You will see that lots of good folks have been usefully busy, and the Association is being very well served. Things are working.

Some U.S. members, especially independents, might be concerned that this recommended global course implies that AAPG will, in the future, de-emphasize their interests. In my mind, nothing could be farther from the truth. In its conferences, publications, short-courses and services, AAPG will continue to provide strong coverage related to U.S. E&P issues, developments and technologies. The recent establishment of GEO-DC, in Washington, D.C., is an example.

But U.S. members need to understand that E&P globalization means more opportunities for them – as international venturers and consultants, as professional users of technologies developed overseas and applied in the United States and as students of geotechnical concepts and models that originated in other countries.

This should not be an “us versus them” issue.


At its Dec. 1, 2005, teleconference, the Executive Committee recognized that improving membership application procedures did not require legislative action. This could be handled administratively, and Executive Director Rick Fritz is giving first priority to this issue through AAPG’s Member Services Department.

The EC also approved the concept of a new vice president for international affairs, but deferred to the HoD on the question of a system for graduated dues.

HoD Chairman Don Clarke and the House leadership first considered these issues at their mid-year meeting on Nov. 19, 2005. They soon realized that by refocusing the existing vice president’s duties on the U.S. Sections a highly desirable “win-win” goal could be achieved: to emphasize and implement the service needs of the U.S. Sections as well as the international Regions with Tulsa HQ. So their proposed amendments contained both a new VP (Regions) as well as a renamed VP (Sections). Great idea!

On Jan. 5, 2006, after extensive deliberations, chairman David Hawk’s Constitution and Bylaws Committee delivered their proposed amendments to the HoD leadership, which approved amendments pertaining to the new vice president configuration, as well as another set of amendments outlining a graduated dues proposal. Pat Gratton, chair of the AC, and I witnessed the teleconference.

Upon notification by AAPG’s counsel, Craig Blackstock, that all proposed amendments were legal, the EC on Jan. 5 approved the vice presidential amendments, on which the HoD will now vote at AAPG’s convention in Houston on Sunday, April 9. One of the vice presidential amendments is a Constitutional amendment, which will require approval by AAPG members as well, given HoD approval.


After substantial constructive discussion, the EC decided that the proposed amendments outlining general principles for a graduated dues system were unsatisfactory because they were too generic and complex.

The preferred course was to appoint a special task force representing the HoD, AC and EC to investigate various graduated dues schemes, to model them financially, to conduct polls and surveys of the AAPG membership and to report their findings and recommendations back for action by the HoD and EC, so any amendments regarding a graduated dues system to be presented to the HoD in April 2007 would be clear as to implications and costs.

This decision by the Executive Committee was well-founded and unanimous – another example of the benefits of group wisdom.


So, as president, I proposed – and the Executive Committee approved at its Jan. 13-15 mid-year meeting – the formation of a Special Task Force (a “blue ribbon” ad hoc committee) to address various merits and implications of graduated dues systems, and to report their findings on Oct. 15, 2006. This committee is chaired by the chairman of the Advisory Council (Pat Gratton). Vice chairs are the chairman of the House of Delegates (Don Clarke) and president-elect of AAPG (Lee Billingsley).

Other members include past AAPG president Dan Smith, Larry Jones (HoD chairman-elect), Warren Workman (Canada Region), Jeff Lund (Gulf Coast Section), Chuck Caughey (ex-Asia-Pacific Region) and myself. Other knowledgeable AAPG members also will be consulted.

The committee already is hard at work; its first poll surveyed the attendees at AAPG’s annual Leadership Conference, held Feb. 10-12 in Galveston, Texas.

The subject of graduated dues also was an official discussion session at the Galveston conference, chaired by Pat Gratton, with talks by Mark Rubin, SPE’s executive director, on SPE’s experience, and Mary Fleming, SEG’s executive director, on SEG’s experience. The pros and cons of alternate schemes were discussed by the participants.


OK, so why is it so important for AAPG’s House of Delegates to approve these “vice presidential amendments” at their upcoming session at the Houston meeting? There are five compelling reasons:

Affirmation – Our international membership (recently declining) needs to know that they are a real part of AAPG, participating fully in governance of the Association and represented on the Executive Committee.

Over the past seven years they have been severely under-represented – only one international member has been elected to be an AAPG officer. Of 25 officers elected in that period, electoral parity would have suggested about eight, not one. Meanwhile, the House of Delegates elected two Canadians to be HoD chairs and to serve ex-officio on the Executive Committee.

A new VP (Regions) would assure continued international representation on the EC.

Timeliness – AAPG particularly needs a vibrant, expanding international membership during this present global energy transition. The globalization of the E&P Industry, once dominated by the United States, is happening very rapidly. Demographics indicate clearly that U.S. and Canadian membership is declining by retirements and mortality, and the number of young North American entry-level geoprofessionals is insufficient to replace them.

We must face facts: Most remaining oil and gas resources are not in the United States, so most material new-field exploration in the future will be international.

Even though there gradually will be less oil and gas produced in the United States, E&P activities will certainly continue there – and AAPG will vigorously support its members who are engaged in such efforts. But the vast bulk of world oil reserves and resources is controlled by national oil companies, not private industry.

So the question is not whether E&P is going global; rather, the question is, will AAPG be a significant part of it?

A robust international membership is vital to AAPG’s future – and they need timely and tangible evidence that AAPG values their membership.

Service to Membership – A very high priority of Pat Gratton’s administration last year, as well as my own, has emphasized the need for more effective liaison and service from Tulsa HQ to U.S. Sections as well as international Regions. Although we have made substantial progress, there is still need for further improvement.

With the proposed vice president (Regions) and vice president (Sections), there would always be elected officers on the Executive Committee to see that effective liaison and service was being provided by the Tulsa administrative staff, thus institutionalizing and reinforcing this important relationship.

All AAPG members would benefit from such an arrangement!

Implementing Our Strategic Plan – Our Strategic Plan, shaped, prepared and finalized over the last two years by the Advisory Council and approved unanimously by more than 100 participants at the 2004 annual Leadership Conference, repeatedly emphasizes that AAPG will move toward a global association. Now we are talking about how we implement that mandate.

Our Future – Much new geotechnology is exportable from North America (and therefore importable as well). AAPG can either embrace a global future, in which our international members play an increasingly large part (and Western geoscience plays a significant role for decades to come), or we can decide to follow the status quo and surrender AAPG’s historical leadership to other societies, such as SPE, SEG and EAGE.

Personally, I believe it would be a disservice to AAPG members who still have five- to 35-year careers ahead of them – and a betrayal of AAPG’s historical tradition of unbounded geoscience and professional prominence – to allow our Association to be eclipsed.

I think it is essential, to all our members, for AAPG to be a recognized presence in those world regions having the largest resources (Middle East, Russia, the Caspian) and most rapidly expanding economies (China, India).


So, is there a “downside” for U.S. AAPG members resulting from approval of the vice presidential amendments?None that I can visualize, and there is plenty of “upside,” as already described.

Is there a “downside” for AAPG members that results from defeat of the proposed VP amendments? Yes, it would send a clear negative message to AAPG’s entire international membership plus thousands of membership-eligible international geoscientists “waiting in the wings,” and it would indicate that U.S. members do not support AAPG’s Strategic Plan.

Is there an “upside?” None that I can think of.


Recommended reading: For the first time ever I am re-recommending an earlier book reference, because it is so timely and important: The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Thomas L. Friedman, 2005.

The globalization processes Friedman describes are occurring to our E&P industry right now, and they will be profound. We cannot allow our Association to be left behind.

Read it, you’ll like it

!Onward!

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