Consider, after all, the millions of miles both candidates and supporters walk during the course of a campaign. On this journey they reach out to people, listen to them, try to understand their problems and perspectives and then tell them how they would respond if elected to office. It’s an educational process that goes both ways.
Nearly 20 AAPG members had a similar experience during the first-ever Geosciences Congressional Visits Day (geoCVD), held Sept. 8-10. The Geosciences Working Group, led by the American Geological Institute and composed of its member societies with offices in Washington, D.C., began planning this event in early 2008. Our goal was to create an event that educated lawmakers and staff of the importance of geosciences in every day life.
The response was tremendous, with more than 60 geoscientists flying in from around the country.
For AAPG members the event began on Monday afternoon (Sept. 8), with a kick-off briefing led by Deborah Sacrey, chair of the Washington Advocacy Group, a subcommittee of the DPA Government Affairs Committee. At the briefing we focused on the key issues we would discuss with policymakers in the context of the current energy situation: access to federal lands for exploration and production, and increased federal oil and gas R&D.
AAPG has long-maintained the importance of responsibly developing the nation’s oil and gas resources on behalf of its citizens. Similarly, AAPG has a long history of supporting federal R&D. In fact, AAPG President Scott Tinker recently communicated with policymakers the need for a dramatic increase in federal oil and gas R&D spending, both for new technologies – especially for unconventional resources – and to rejuvenate the nation’s universities and colleges that are training the next-generation work force.
On Tuesday morning, the AAPG group met with the Department of Energy fossil energy program and staff from the House Energy and Minerals Subcommittee. That afternoon we traveled to the American Geophysical Union headquarters to meet with the other societies and prepare for our Hill visits on Wednesday.
Wednesday morning we headed to Capitol Hill, where each participant had a scheduled meeting with their representatives and/or staff.
We had a receptive audience – lawmakers and staff had just returned from the five-week August recess, where they had spent a lot of time at home talking to constituents, and energy was at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
The purpose of these meetings was to talk about access and R&D, but also to listen and answer questions. Our goal was to build relationships with policy makers and their staff to become trusted sources of information, not just through GEO-DC, but also as individual citizens.
The diverse expertise and experience of our group represents a significant brain-trust:
- Jim Hill represented California, meeting with staff for Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and Rep. Elton Gallegly.
- David Hawk of Idaho met personally with Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo and Rep. Bill Sali, and with staff of Rep. Mike Simpson.
- Lee Harvard met personally with Senator Pete Domenici, and also met with staff of Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Rep. Stevan Pearce.
- Pete MacKenzie represented Ohio, meeting with staff of Sens. George Voinovich and Sherrod Brown, and Rep. Deborah Pryce.
- Joel Alnes, Robert Hefner IV and Robert Hefner V of Oklahoma met personally with Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn. Alnes met with Rep. John Sullivan and the Hefners met with Rep. Mary Fallin.
- Mary Harris from South Carolina met with staff from Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, and with staff of Rep. Gresham Barrett. She also got to meet the congressman at the end of her meetings.
- Our large Texas delegation met with staff for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison – and then met the senator in the hallway – and staff for Sen. John Cornyn. In addition, Pat Gratton visited with Rep. Pete Sessions; Dan Smith met with Rep. Al Green’s staff; Paul Britt met with Rep. Nick Lampson’s staff; Howard Harper met with Rep. Mike Burgess’s staff; and Deborah Sacrey, John Jordan, Dawne Jordan, Mike Loudin and Denise Stone met with staff of Rep. John Culberson.
- Jeff Eppink from Virginia met with staff of Sens. John Warner and Jim Webb, and with staff for Rep. Frank Wolf.
- Carl Smith of West Virginia, met with staff for Sens. Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, and had a brief meeting with Rep. Alan Mollohan.
- The group also met with staff from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Thomas Jefferson once remarked, “I know of no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take the power from them, but to inform them by education.”
Education is a central focus at AAPG; whether it is helping our members improve their skills, educating the general public through PetroleumGeology.org or informing policymakers and policy through GEO-DC. This is a societal responsibility we all have as citizen scientists.
Thanks to all AAPG members who participated in geoCVD for investing their time, their energy and their resources to bring knowledge and expertise to Washington, D.C.
Now, I’m off to the cobbler. Who knew that shoe leather was a cost of maintaining our democracy?