Before I get into this month’s musings, I want to brag on the recent Mid-Continent Section meeting. Most members likely know that in AAPG’s structure, local affiliated geological societies connect up to “Sections” (United States) or “Regions” (rest of the world), which connect up to the AAPG mothership. Last month, dedicated volunteers in Mid-Con delivered an outstanding program of field trips, a core workshop, short courses, talks, posters, a panel, mixers, a vibrant exhibit hall and big-name luncheon speakers, all in the brand-new Oklahoma City Convention Center set in a lovely park under picture-perfect skies. They hit the sweet spot! Sincerest thanks to Mid-Con and to all the volunteers around the world who invest their time and talents to share knowledge and to build and renew ties with colleagues in our global AAPG enterprise.
This month, I would like to drill deeper on the theme of my September column “Perception is Reality…” The names by which we call things shape thinking and create perceptions right up front. (Which would you rather order in a restaurant – Slimehead or Orange Roughy?) I was thinking about this because in discussing the changing energy landscape, different phrases are being used. Besides the ubiquitous “energy transition,” you might also hear “energy evolution” and occasionally “energy addition.” But when I see these supposed synonyms side-by-side, I already have different impressions of what they mean and imply.
Just for curiosity, I asked ChatGPT to define each of these. In case you have not tried it yet yourself, ChatGPT is a conversational artificial intelligence designed to understand and generate human-like text based on the input it receives. It can engage in conversations, answer questions, provide information and assist with a wide range of tasks (including for example, writing this column if I asked it to). It was primarily trained by reading massive amounts of text from the Internet (cutoff date 2021) followed by additional fine-tuning. Here are its answers to the simple prompt “Define Energy xxx in two sentences”:
- Energy transition: “The energy transition is a fundamental shift in the way society produces, consumes, and manages energy. It involves transitioning from conventional, often fossil fuel-based energy sources to more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives, such as renewable energy technologies ….”
- Energy evolution: “… typically implies the gradual progression from traditional, less efficient energy sources to more advanced and sustainable technologies …”
- Energy addition: “ … not a standard term … provide more details or context … ” Oops.
My own perception of the phrase “energy addition” is an inclusive “all of the above” strategy to meet a growing global energy demand, not a simple substitution of one for another nor a progression from less advanced/efficient sources to superior sources.
This is congruent with the range of models put out by the experts:
- The 2023 International Energy Outlook models from the U.S. Energy Information Agency are based on recent trends and current trajectory of the global energy system. In all scenarios considered, fossil energy will constitute a lower percentage of total world supply in 2050, but the absolute amount of fossil energy will be greater than today.
- The Net Zero Emissions by 2050 aspirational roadmap from the International Energy Agency requires significant changes in policy, technology, behavior and societal beliefs to reduce carbon emissions. Fossil fuels are lower both as a percentage and in absolute terms but still constitute roughly 20 percent of the mix by 2050.
None of us has a crystal ball to know where we will be in 2050, but it is unanimous that the path from here to there includes much more energy for the world. Hence, I am going to try to train myself to use the inclusive term “energy addition,” creating the accurate perception that in the foreseeable future, we need “all of the above.” Who knows – if enough people start using the phrase, eventually ChatGPT should be able to define it.
An ‘All of the Above’ Identity
So what does this have to do with AAPG? The obvious answer is the correlation between the overall outlook for the energy industry and our livelihoods. But the additional tie has to do with the full name under our AAPG acronym, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. I have received a great deal of advice from members that we should change the name because it creates perceptions that work against us. In fact, the only word that hasn’t been challenged is “Association.”
- American: We are a global organization, plus (sad to say), this does not have the global cachet it once did.
- Petroleum: We have members applying their subsurface skills to other energies and in energy-adjacent lines of work, plus (also sad to say), negative perceptions are creating repercussions.
- Geologists: We have members who may have originally trained in different fields.
When I float this topic in conversation, I, of course, also get pushback the other way: the name is our identity, it would be disrespectful to our founders and historical members to change it, it would disenfranchise current members who do fit the name perfectly and we would destroy our brand recognition.
Our Executive Director David Curtiss, while overall staying above the fray, has opined that it would be important to keep the acronym – AAPG is known worldwide – but updated words underneath, or even no words at all, would have minimal impact on brand.
The most commonly suggested new name is “Association for Applied Professional Geoscientists.” It matches the acronym and is inclusive of our membership for nationality, job/career and training/background. Speaking for myself, whether we had new name-words underneath or no words at all, we should add a powerful new tagline defining ourselves, not by our individual characteristics, but rather by the critically important work we collectively do: “AAPG – Energy for the World.”
Who wouldn’t have a positive perception of that?
As always, please do send in your thoughts, comments, reactions and suggestions to the mailbox [email protected]. As we progress along our improvement journey, all of us together are smarter than any one of us alone.
Until next month,