Four of every five people on the planet are in emerging and developing economies. These are people just beginning to move up the economic ladder, and they need energy to do so.
Scott Tinker, a past president of AAPG, has been talking about energy systems for much more than a decade, and launched a non-profit organization, the Switch Energy Alliance, to elevate the public conversation about the value and realities of the energy choices we face.
Earlier this year Tinker participated in a TEDx event at the University of Texas at Austin. His talk, “The Dual Challenge: Energy and Environment” was released online last month.
The choice, if you listen to policymakers and the media, is one of either energy or the environment.
But this isn’t the choice at all.
The reality, as Tinker observes, is that while “large-scale energy systems have large environmental impacts,” there is a strong correlation between wealth and environmental quality. The highest environmental quality is in rich nations, who have the resources to regulate and clean up the environment.
“Energy won’t end poverty. But you won’t end poverty without energy,” Tinker says.
The Dual Challenge: Energy and Environment – the operative word is “and.”
Questions that Must Be Answered
Perhaps it’s human nature to draw lines and distinctions – to create and focus on false choices – in our public discourse. This tendency permeates the news, political discourse and social media.
AAPG has experienced this itself over the past several months with regard to the proposed and terminated merger with the Society of Petroleum Engineers. The experience for many of us was bruising. It exposed fissures in our community.
Questions of our identity as geoscientists and our future as petroleum geoscientists remain to be answered.
Does AAPG focus on its legacy – and expertise – in petroleum or does it embrace the energy transition, however you wish to define that term?
AAPG members include numerous petroleum geoscientists, committed to their craft of finding and producing the oil and natural gas that fuels modern society. Many of these members are seasoned professionals who have been doing this for a long time, and a significant percentage of them do not plan to retire.
There are far fewer mid-career members. That’s in part due to suppressed hiring by our industry in the 1990s and the reality that Gen-X is a small generation.
Millennials who entered the business during the shale boom have expertise in unconventional resources. But many of them also gained firsthand experience of the cyclicity of our commodity business, facing layoffs and an uncertain future. As a result, a significant number have left the industry, taking their careers in new directions.
Attracting a new generation of professionals into our workforce and to AAPG membership requires us to recognize that young people today want to be able to look at their friends and defend their choice of major. They want to be able to tell their parents how what they’re studying and want to do with their lives will result in a meaningful and fulfilling career.
Building a Better World
One way to create meaning and fulfillment in life is to focus your energy and attention on solving big challenges, which brings me back to Tinker’s talk.
“You’re not going to like me,” Tinkers says. “There is no renewable energy. It all takes Earth resources; we make it, and then (after its useful life) we put it back in the Earth.”
Our opportunity as geoscientists – I’d say it’s also an obligation – is to step into this dual challenge of energy and the environment. We can provide the energy the world needs to deliver food, to power economies and lift people out of poverty. We can – in fact, we must – do so in a manner that protects from and remediates environmental impacts.
Wishful thinking won’t accomplish this – we need critical thinking.
The energy “transition” in reality is the continued evolution of our energy systems. Social pressures do affect our industry and profession. But we need to keep our eyes on the goal, communicating to policymakers and our friends and neighbors the realities of the dual challenge.
To be effective, we need a community of professionals who are committed to tackling this challenge and who see it as a noble and worthy objective.
For many of us, AAPG is that community. We are a member-led organization, and as this fiscal year draws to a close, I would like to thank Gretchen Gillis, Linda Sternbach, Denise Stone, Bob Merrill and Kristie Ferguson for their service on the Executive Committee.
Their commitment was to serve you, AAPG’s members, and position the association for future success. This mantle will now be taken up by continuing officers Steven Goolsby, Elvira Gomez and Jonathan Allen, as well as newly-elected officers Claudia Hackbarth, Rebecca Dodge, Ali Sloan, Matthew Pranter and Justin Vandenbrink.
Stay connected to your professional community. Together we are building a better world.