Petroleum Geology – Yes, Petroleum

Petroleum, liquid hydrocarbons, natural gas, fossil fuel, black gold, Texas tea … call it what you like, but if not for the talented geologists who find this naturally occurring organic substance deep in our planet Earth, the modern economy with cell phones, Instagram, Teslas, extreme sports and Starbucks would not exist. Whales would be extinct and the world’s cities would be drenched in piles of poo from the millions of animals forced into labor transporting humans from place to place.

I, for one, love whales and am glad they still roam the world’s oceans. And I honestly hate the idea of forcing animals into a life of drudgery hauling people and their stuff from one location to the next.

Put just one gallon of gasoline into a truck, though, and you can haul people and stuff for more than 20 miles. You could even carry an animal. Thank God for oil! And thank God for the men and women who find it and bring it into service!

Yet hydrocarbons, and the people who find them, are facing the most uncertain and politically-charged future since our emergence on the world stage. Hollywood “brainiacs,” in partnership with left-wing political demagogues, tirelessly condemn the use of hydrocarbons as an “existential threat” to life on Earth. Petroleum geologists are “encouraged to transition” their skills into more acceptable activities, like pumping plant food (CO₂) into underground storage reservoirs, developing economically-viable green geothermal energy, or digging massive earth holes to extract rare minerals for batteries to store “clean, renewable” electricity.

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Petroleum, liquid hydrocarbons, natural gas, fossil fuel, black gold, Texas tea … call it what you like, but if not for the talented geologists who find this naturally occurring organic substance deep in our planet Earth, the modern economy with cell phones, Instagram, Teslas, extreme sports and Starbucks would not exist. Whales would be extinct and the world’s cities would be drenched in piles of poo from the millions of animals forced into labor transporting humans from place to place.

I, for one, love whales and am glad they still roam the world’s oceans. And I honestly hate the idea of forcing animals into a life of drudgery hauling people and their stuff from one location to the next.

Put just one gallon of gasoline into a truck, though, and you can haul people and stuff for more than 20 miles. You could even carry an animal. Thank God for oil! And thank God for the men and women who find it and bring it into service!

Yet hydrocarbons, and the people who find them, are facing the most uncertain and politically-charged future since our emergence on the world stage. Hollywood “brainiacs,” in partnership with left-wing political demagogues, tirelessly condemn the use of hydrocarbons as an “existential threat” to life on Earth. Petroleum geologists are “encouraged to transition” their skills into more acceptable activities, like pumping plant food (CO₂) into underground storage reservoirs, developing economically-viable green geothermal energy, or digging massive earth holes to extract rare minerals for batteries to store “clean, renewable” electricity.

Give me a break!

Those activities will not “save the planet”, they won’t provide any meaningful number of geoscience jobs, and they will not make life on Earth better. So, stop with the delusional advocacy.

Instead, amp up your advocacy for petroleum. For hydrocarbons and the economic prosperity they provide – for common sense, a cleaner world and true human compassion.

Truth and Lip Service

I do not have the space here to provide an exhaustive defense of hydrocarbons or rational arguments on climate science, but I can recommend others who have written extensively on the subject. Read Alex Epstein, Bjorn Lomborg, Steve Koonin, Mark Mills and fellow Division of Professional Affairs member Andy May. Study historical world affairs and how energy policy failures can lead to world wars. Pay attention to the modern crisis with Russia and the frightening consequences of self-induced import dependence facing Germany, as well as the hydrocarbon-starved energy dependence inherent to many countries. Hydrocarbon import agreements do not necessarily provide for national security. However, the ability to export hydrocarbons is very empowering.

Political leaders who care about their citizens are highly focused on finding reliable, affordable and secure sources of hydrocarbons. China is expanding their use of coal because they desire energy security and they have limited oil and gas reserves. President Xi knows his people and their economy need hydrocarbon energy to keep making “stuff” for the world. Oh, and that includes the rare earth minerals needed for the “green economy” of which China mines 60 percent of the global supply. China might provide lip service to combatting climate change, but the actions of their leadership tell a different story.

Leaders who want to attend Hollywood parties have a different focus. By promoting a climate catastrophism narrative that blames the use of hydrocarbons, these mostly Western leaders have used fear to try to crush the hydrocarbon economies in their own countries. They get away with it when the people are uninformed. If petroleum geoscientists don’t do more to educate the general population about the world of hydrocarbons, the negative political exploitation will continue. Informed citizens would never accept the incongruity of a U.S. president seeking more oil from foreign tyrants in Venezuela and Iran while a senator from Massachusetts wages her personal war on American oil producers. American oil production is a source of American national security. This adage holds true for every country. When domestic oil production is attacked from within or from the outside, it should be viewed as an attack on a nation’s security.

AAPG is Home

For those who have a passion for something other than petroleum geology, I encourage you to follow your dreams. We don’t all have to do the same things. But for the petroleum geologist, the women and men who apply enormous technical talent and creative thinking to find the hydrocarbon resources that power the world, know that AAPG is your natural home. Whatever merger or reinvention happens with AAPG, let’s make sure that the business of bringing hydrocarbons to an energy starved world remains the primary focus of our organization.

Yes, AAPG was founded by proud Americans, but the vision of this society is now shared across the globe. It is truly an international vision and we need each other now more than ever. The hostility toward petroleum is extreme and we need leaders in AAPG to emerge in every country to stand against this foolish onslaught. Become so well educated on the topic of hydrocarbons and the climate that when you are asked, “What do you do for a living?” you are prepared. No shy answers like, “You’ll probably hate me because I work for an oil company, but I really like nature!” Instead, be ready for succinct, passionate, confident answers that reveal your knowledge and conviction. Elaborate if asked, or if not, smile confidently. But more importantly, seek opportunities to be a discussion leader on the topic of hydrocarbons.

Within AAPG, the DPA is for the advocates in petroleum geology. There is no other professional society that brings together the aspects of science, technology and business to the world of petroleum geoscience. We must preserve that focus and, frankly, redouble our efforts to fulfill the core mission and not become distracted by non-petroleum pursuits. We must be the warriors who are unafraid to engage in the hydrocarbon debates.

If you agree, then join us.

Comments (14)

We need to see more like this from AAPG.
Thanks, Don for your courage and leadership in writing this article, and thanks for not pulling punches. I'm also grateful to the editors for publishing your article. Based on what I've been hearing from AAPG, SPE, and energy company boardrooms, I was beginning to think that our leaders were just going to roll over in the face of demonization of petroleum industry.
5/11/2022 12:27:58 PM
Could not agree more
This guy needs lead AAPA and weed out all the enviro nazis, touchy feel good people (like our current and past presidents. HEAR HEAR. OIL ON AAPG
5/5/2022 6:52:26 PM
Petroleum Geology, yes Petroleum by Don Burdick
Finally, the AAPG publishes something that should have been their policy guideline all along, this excellent piece by Mr. Burdick. Ironically, another article in the same issue of the Explorer shows the new AAPG policy line, quite the opposite of this article, talking about the usual energy trnasition, carbon capture, and on and on. The reality that all geologists should recognize, if they are actually scientifically inclined rather than politically inclined, is that there is no such thing as global warming, climate change, climate crisis, climate catastrophy, climate emergency induced by man-made emissions of CO2 from the burning of hydrocarbons (there is also no such thing as fossil fuels). In fact, as any geologist should know, we are presently living in an ice house planet with some of the lowest CO2 levels, lowest temperatures, lowest sea levels during the actual glacial periods, in the history of the planet. I agree with Mr. Burdick that the AAPG should be fighting against this madness that exists and is supported by the financial, government, and media worlds, instead of supporting it and being complacent. This plan by the ruling cabal is to destroy civilization, as presently their is no other form of energy that can replace hydrocarbon energy. At least some members of this organization are astute enough to see what is going on, and hopefully we can change these outlooks with more articles as this. Jim Podruski
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5/1/2022 4:11:03 AM
Yes, Petroleum Geology
Thank you so much for the article. To echo a previous commenter, I too have wondered if we remember what the PG in the organization’s name stands for. Look about you. Everything you see in our modern world was constructed and/or maintained courtesy of cheap energy, meaning, almost exclusively, fossil fuels. We have escaped the tyranny of animal and human muscle power and changed the world. And never has our industry been under such intense attack. Next year I celebrate 50 years as a member, and have no regrets about my choice. Joe Fetzer
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4/29/2022 3:32:43 PM
Yes, AAPetroleumGeology!!
Thank you, Don. By far the most enjoyable Explorer article in a long, long time. I was beginning to fear this organization had forgotten the PG portion of its name. We need to be proud and keep promoting our profession and industry.
4/29/2022 6:07:25 AM
Politicians vs Scientists / Who are the real experts ?
Thank you Don for writing this article …. We need more sensible people like you to explain what’s really going on… Politics vs Science
4/28/2022 10:21:20 PM
Petroleum and Petroleum Geology
Thanks Don, well said. Bruce Hutson
4/28/2022 7:25:04 PM
Petroleum Geology - Yes Petroleum
Dear Don, Excellent article. And I am not at all ashamed to say that yes I am a Petroleum Geologist and I love being one without a single ounce of delusional guilt. Petroleum Geology has been responsible for what we are today and there is no denying this fact. The reason oil is picked up as the devil is more geopolitical than rationale argument. Mining (for Nickel and Cadmium) is more damaging that petroleum. As you rightly said "Try stopping China and India to use coal to fuel their ever growing energy demand". The west should stop being the voice of the entire world. You really cannot go and say that we did this but you cannot because we already destroyed everything. This is quite unfair. Poorer countries like Africa needs cheap energy and till the time alternate source of energy is found, the oil and coal is needed. If you ask the government as to why they allowed flaring of Gas on the first place, they would not be able to give you an answer. I am really glad that DPA is raising voice against this weirdest anti Petroleum campaign going on currently. We all know as geologist that the world climate change so go ahead and find the proper reason for this change. Enormous population/deforestation and destruction of biodiversity in the ocean (through excessive fishing sponsored by the government) is more responsible for this change. In my opinion singling out oil and gas is just blatantly stupid. Regards Sumon
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4/28/2022 6:08:26 PM
Petroleum Geology – Yes, Petroleum
Thanks for your courage to speak the truth. Natural gas and coal are going to be the majority grid energy producers for decades to come. Renewables have so many problems that their percentage of total energy production is going to increase very slowly. Even then the EIA says this.
4/28/2022 5:49:38 PM
Don Burdick's April Explorer column
Petroleum is, has been, and continues to be a very valuable and economically important resource. The petroleum industry cannot immediately shut down. Such an act would be a disaster. As prior AAPG presidents have said, petroleum is a "bridge to the future" of energy supplies on earth. Petroleum geologists, past and present, should be proud of their contribution. BUT, Mr. Burdick is bucking a vast consensus of climate science when he claims we should continue to burn more fossil fuels and ignore all of the almost daily signs of a warming climate. The science clearly ties climate change to consumption of fossil fuels. Alternative energy sources are a critical part of the worlds energy future, and continued reliable supplies of hydrocarbons play an important part in making a transition to that future.
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4/28/2022 5:33:19 PM
This should not be on AAPG's website or in Explorer
Please spare us the political posturing of your own, Don Burdick. This article isn't science and has no place in AAPG. Furthermore, the issue is not whether oil and gas have benefited mankind, it is more to do with the frivolous, wasteful ways mankind uses this valuable resource. It would be better if we could encourage people to use this amazing resource more wisely, to conserve energy, to reduce single use plastics, stop trashing the environment, and the creatures who share it with us, with our chemicals and plastics.
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4/28/2022 5:15:38 PM
Thank you!
Thank you for writing this! I agree with this 100%. Thank you for helping me feel confident in the career I have chosen and feel passionate about.
4/28/2022 5:06:47 PM
Can we work toward a unified future?
It saddens me to hear AAPG spreading politically-charged exhortations like: “Hollywood “brainiacs,” in partnership with left-wing political demagogues, tirelessly condemn the use of hydrocarbons as an “existential threat” to life on Earth.” “Leaders who want to attend Hollywood parties have a different focus. By promoting a climate catastrophism narrative that blames the use of hydrocarbons, these mostly Western leaders have used fear to try to crush the hydrocarbon economies in their own countries.” “Informed citizens would never accept the incongruity of a U.S. president seeking more oil from foreign tyrants in Venezuela and Iran while a senator from Massachusetts wages her personal war on American oil producers.” I am an informed citizen. While I have considered AAPG one of my homes, I will actively resist ALL demagogues and the people and organizations that seek to divide us. I find the political bias shown by this editorial unacceptable. Try to be more inclusive in your messages or lose my support.
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4/28/2022 5:03:23 PM
Hear, hear!
Whole-heartedly agree. Thanks for the column!
4/6/2022 2:49:33 PM

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