As a volunteer for AAPG and the Dallas Geological Society it has been clear to me that the “90/10” rule holds with geologists as with all other organizations and professions. That is, 90 percent of people simply want to be left alone to do their jobs and 10 percent volunteer to get involved in professional societies, mentoring, politics or other pursuits.
This is perfectly normal and the comfortable path for most.
However, let’s recall some recent history and what can happen if we choose to be inactive or complacent.
In the United States during the 1970s, a Windfall Profit Tax, tiered oil pricing, restrictions on natural gas usage and other misguided legislation were passed. The 1980s saw environmental laws passed that discouraged development of resources. These events created a bureaucratic maze that as a result closed much of our mining, steel and refining industries, and many public and most private oil companies.
Also, the U.S. administration colluded for a low commodities price in a successful attempt to bankrupt communism. This cost over 20,000 domestic geology jobs and virtual collapse of an oil industry weakened by overtaxation and regulation.
The 1990s saw continued passage and expansion of regulations that slowly strangled the oil industry in the United States to the point of damaging national sovereignty. This, coupled with the extraordinary removal of public acreage onshore and offshore from industry access, artificially decreased the domestic supply of energy.
We also saw litigation by environmental extremists that slowed or stopped drilling for oil and gas, refinery and power plant construction, nuclear plants, some LNG facilities and many pipelines. Surplus supply capacity was squandered in a climate of regulatory excess and low commodity prices without consideration of the future these policies guaranteed.
The contraction in our industry continued for 15 years, and the United States lost experienced personnel, enormous amounts of data and most undergraduate geology majors. Geologists and our sister professional societies chose to remain silent and noncontroversial through it all.
If geologists had acted differently and more forcefully, we may not have changed any of this history. But the point is we did not act proactively or in an organized manner.
Today, one reality is high commodity prices, little excess capacity, shortages of materials, manpower and rigs and sharply increasing demand. For geologists, this means jobs, increased compensation and ready customers for our skills and products.
Most geologists are busy and under pressure to produce. As a result, there is more of an excuse to not volunteer or give back to your profession.
Another reality is the petroleum industry is again seen as a revenue source by government and an easy target by those politicians who would bait Americans using class warfare. Proposed legislation to heavily tax and punish your industry has once again surfaced.
Enviro-extremists have launched a propaganda campaign concerning climate change armed with junk science and championed by unscrupulous political hacks or misinformed believers. The energy industry is often portrayed as evil, or “old technology,” and our scientists are lumped with those of the tobacco industry by the public media and litigators. Our science is even under attack by religious extremists who wish to end teaching of the geologic time scale and theory of evolution and substitute creationist theology for science.
All these realities could cost you your job, reduce your income or restrict your ability to find hydrocarbons. All of these attacks from both the extreme left and right rely on our apathy and the ignorance of our science in the media, government and public.
Sadly, some members of our own leadership do not wish to be controversial or cause us to receive criticism from anyone or anything.
If we stand for our science and for our industry, we will be criticized and we will be controversial, because we stand for something. If we do nothing, we stand for nothing and deserve our fate.
Whether you agree with these opinions or not, I appeal to you as AAPG members and geologists who understand the earth history and processes to get involved in politics in the coming election cycle. Inform yourself on broader issues such as climate change, inform your neighbors and friends about your science and volunteer at some level somewhere.
Part of our mission in DPA is to inform the public and public policy makers concerning our science. DPA will not go quietly this time.