This month marks the fifth anniversary of the Geoscience and Energy Office in Washington, D.C. (GEO-DC), established by the AAPG Executive Committee in June 2005. We are taking this opportunity to review the purpose, past accomplishments and future plans for the office.
GEO-DC is now a well-regarded and respected entity that provides a host of services to AAPG members and policy makers.
The office is critically important to AAPG members. Concern among members about the lack of a coherent, comprehensive U.S. energy policy is very high. Volatile prices for oil and gas, energy security, energy independence, climate change, tax increases to support a myriad of government programs and many other issues have dominated energy policy debates.
Proposals to award tax incentives to alternative energy are widespread, while plans to eliminate tax incentives for fossil energy threaten the livelihood of both domestic and international AAPG members. One of the six purposes of the Association, as stated in our constitution, is “to advance the professional well being of its members” – and that is precisely what GEO-DC is doing.
There is a disconnect between the oil and gas industry and the American public and the U.S. government.
The narrative in Washington is that Big Oil and its “obscene” profits need to be punished so that the country can move to clean energy as soon as possible. A deliberate move to higher taxes, more regulation, bigger government, redistribution of wealth and suppression of small business is confounding the efforts of geoscientists to explore for new energy sources.
The petroleum industry supplying the global economy’s perceived addiction to oil is under siege on all fronts. The favorite pastime of too many in responsible government positions is to demonize industry and business in general. The evidence suggests that without a change in direction we are headed toward an energy abyss.
What is the solution to this plight?
It is education, education and more education – of science and fact-based information. A grassroots effort is essential, involving every AAPG member. Legislators at all levels of government respond most directly to what they are hearing back home.
AAPG is not a trade association, but rather a scientific and professional association. As such, GEO-DC’s purpose is threefold:
The Governance Board is responsible for providing member oversight of the office and its activities. The Division of Professional Affairs (DPA) provides significant programmatic and financial support through the Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC).
GAC is responsible for the development of AAPG statements, which outline the current views of the Association on a host of policy issues. AAPG statements are the principal touchstone for GEO-DC on policy issues. They are developed by GAC based on suggestions from AAPG members, and then forwarded through the Governance Board and DPA leadership to the AAPG Executive Committee for approval and adoption.
The statements are reviewed and updated periodically to reflect new scientific advancements, policy developments or other changes.
Providing information to policy makers is a primary mission. We do that by responding to information requests as they occur. We also look for opportunities to formally engage Congress and the administration on various issues through written/verbal testimony and responses to requests for public comment. Efforts to directly engage lawmakers and their staff through personal meetings are ongoing.
Developing materials to use in our outreach – such as a primer on oil and natural gas exploration and a whitepaper on R&D needs of the U.S. independent oil and gas producer – are ways that AAPG members have made direct contributions to these efforts.
GEO-DC also routinely works with other organizations in Washington, D.C., always seeking to provide scientific and fact-based information based on our members’ knowledge and experience.
GEO-DC hosts Congressional Visits Days twice a year, where geoscientists come to Washington to meet with agencies, congressional committees and individual legislators. We provide speakers and host briefings for Senate and House staff to understand many aspects of energy geology. If any of you (not just DPA members) are interested in contributing your time and effort, please contact us.
Much has been accomplished, but much more work remains to be done.
To plan for GEO-DC’s future, the Governance Board convened a workshop in Washington, D.C., in late 2009. Fifteen projects/issues were considered and prioritized for further development.
The projects include training programs for AAPG members in communicating with policymakers and creating opportunities for members to engage in this activity. We are looking to develop new outreach materials on a variety of topics. And we are constantly looking at ways to provide information and service to AAPG members outside the United States.
Last month the EC approved a proposal from the Governance Board that some of these special projects be funded by members’ voluntary contributions (accumulated to date) made on the annual AAPG dues statement. If you are interested in contributing financially to GEO-DC’s activities, please mark the appropriate box on your dues notice and show the amount of your voluntary contribution.
(These contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purpose and are limited to U.S. members.)
Thanks to all of you who have already provided financial support.
Special thanks are due to Pat Gratton, Pete Rose, Will Green and Clint Moore for their early vision and leadership in the formation of GEO-DC. Also, special thanks to Deborah Sacrey, who serves as chair of the DPA Governmental Affairs Committee, and her predecessor Carl Smith, for their dedication and commitment to the success of the office.
Extra special thanks to GEO-DC director David Curtiss, who has been critical to the ongoing functioning of the office, and to the office’s founding director, Don Juckett.
The stakes are high. The challenge is great. Educating our leaders about what we do has a direct impact on each of us.
We urge you to get involved and join us as we work diligently to bring science to policy.
Dan Smith is chair of the Governance Board.Peter MacKenzie is vice chair of the Governance Board.