As this issue of the EXPLORER arrives in your mailbox, a group of AAPG members has just finished another Geosciences Congressional Visits Days in Washington, D.C.
During this annual pilgrimage to the U.S. capital, AAPG members gather with members of our sister geoscience societies to talk to policymakers and their staff about the importance of the geosciences to society. We talk about our shared interests as geoscientists - and each group also has a chance to raise issues important to its members.
Congressional Visits Days is one of the activities coordinated and organized by AAPG’s Geoscience and Energy Policy office in Washington, D.C., or as we like to call it, GEO-DC.
This December GEO-DC will celebrate its 10th anniversary.
Over the past decade we have been working diligently to help policymakers - in the United States and abroad - better understand the role that geoscience, specifically petroleum geoscience, plays as the foundation of modern society.
As geologists we take for granted that the general public and elected leaders understand the role geoscience plays.
But they don’t.
And while there are many trade associations that represent oil and gas industry interests, until AAPG opened its office there was no group dedicated to improved public understanding of the science of finding oil and natural gas.
That’s the niche GEO-DC fills.
Occasionally I get a question about why AAPG, as an international scientific and professional association, has an office in Washington, D.C. After all, we aren’t the power brokering lobbyists of the sort portrayed on “House of Cards.”
That’s true, of course, but the real underlying question is: How do non-U.S. members benefit from GEO-DC?
My response is that, in fact, many AAPG members live and work in the United States. Many more work for corporations who have operations in the United States. So policies set in Washington, D.C., affect an overwhelming number of AAPG members, either directly or indirectly.
Finally, the big issues facing our profession and our industry are global, so the messages and approaches we are developing and testing in Washington, D.C., to educate policymakers and the public can be used worldwide.
GEO-DC isn’t just for U.S. members; it’s for all AAPG members.
That’s been a hallmark ever since founding director Don Juckett opened the office in late 2005. Don’s background at Phillips Petroleum and then as a member of the senior executive service at the U.S. Department of Energy were the right blend of both industry and government/policy experience that enabled us to successfully launch this initiative.
I joined as deputy director on a part-time basis a few months later while working at the Energy & Geoscience Institute at the University of Utah. My policy experience came from my 2001-02 appointment as the American Geological Institute’s Congressional Science Fellow, where I worked on Capitol Hill for now retired Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. (R-Okla.).
In late 2007, I moved back to Washington and took over as GEO-DC director from Don.
Our current director, Edith Allison, whose background includes both stints in industry and then working for the Department of Energy’s fossil energy program, as well as a distinguished career of volunteer service to AAPG, took the reins in 2013 and has been working diligently to expand and grow AAPG’s policy activities.
Colleen Newman has more recently joined Edie to help AAPG connect and communicate its message. She brings her legislative and executive branch experience and expansive network in Washington’s policy circles to the team.
GEO-DC’s mission has three principal elements:
- Advise and educate policymakers, government officials and other science and policy organizations to help them make better, more informed policy decisions.
- Communicate to AAPG members timely and relevant information on policy and regulatory activity that will affect them and their careers.
- Provide AAPG members with an opportunity to engage with policymakers, bringing their unique expertise to policy discussions.
Congressional Visit Days, like the one we’ve just concluded, is a prime opportunity for you to get involved in policy activities. In recent years we’ve had several of our Canadian members participate, and everyone is welcome to join us.
As petroleum geoscientists it is up to us to ensure that policymakers and the public have relevant information about our profession as they assess and evaluate policy options.
AAPG has accepted that challenge, and I urge you to join us.