We all have milestones in our lives – those times that, in retrospect, we recognize as formative or transitionary, in which one chapter of our lives ends and another begins.
Commencement is a significant milestone for many of us. Over the next several months, celebrations of new beginnings will occur at universities across the globe. After toiling through university lessons, freshly minted graduates are ready to start their professional lives. They’re certainly filled with eager expectation, as are their parents.
The Planet is Our Laboratory
This June will mark 59 years since Colin L. Powell, retired general and statesman, completed his degree in geology from City College of New York and was immediately sworn in as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. The son of Jamaican immigrant parents, Powell forged a remarkable career in the military and then shifted to civilian leadership serving as the first African-American U.S. secretary of state, fourth in line to the presidency.
As I mentioned last month, the NAPE partners had the good fortune of hosting Powell at the NAPE Charities luncheon in Houston.
He never worked as a geologist. But, as he told the gathered crowd at NAPE, his knowledge of geology and how the Earth works informed his entire career. Whether it was moving troops over rugged terrain or the delicate balancing act of the geopolitics of oil and natural gas, his understanding of the planet helped him navigate these challenges.
If ever there was an endorsement for studying the geosciences – even if you want to pursue a career outside of traditional geological professions – look no further than Colin Powell.
I like to say that, for geologists, the entire planet is our laboratory. Even if we are looking at nanofossils or kerogen reaction kinetics, in order to do our job we place these events into their larger context. Our science demands we look at the big picture.
Learn from the Master at ACE
Speaking of the big picture, December 1990 was a milestone for our industry.
It was that month that a more than 900-page history of the petroleum industry was first released, and to great acclaim: “The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power” by Daniel Yergin chronicles the history of our industry from the 1850s through 1990.
Broad in scope and filled with the rich detail and colorful personalities of the oil and gas business, “The Prize” went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction.
Yergin followed that book with “The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy” and most recently “The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World,” picking up where “The Prize” left off.
Yergin is a master of seeing the big picture, and he is speaking to us next month at the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition (ACE) during the 100th Anniversary Celebration gala dinner.
I hope you can join us for this special event, which foreshadows the third milestone I’d like to talk about this month.
Last month, on Feb. 10 to be exact, we celebrated the 100th birthday of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (see the full story on page 26 for more details).
I wonder if anyone in the room back in 1917 seriously contemplated what the world would look like a century later and whether AAPG would still exist. But here we are, continuing to serve as a global hub for petroleum geoscience, an international community of geologists who play an essential role in fueling the world, approaching 100 million barrels of oil per day.
As we gather in Houston for our centennial ACE, we are going to look back at the past, but even more so, look ahead to the future. Through the robust technical program, celebratory events and the opportunity to connect with your professional colleagues – “your tribe,” as ACE General Chair Dave Rensink likes to say – we want you to come away reinvigorated as a petroleum professional, equipped to meet the challenges you face.
Our science has changed, our understanding has evolved, and yet we’re still finding oil and natural gas reserves and getting ever better at producing those resources left in the ground.
It’s a daunting task. It’s a global task. But the world is depending on us.