Changing our image is not an impossible
task. Difficult? Yes, especially when you consider the influences
and attitudes that brought us to today:
- "The Oil Business is cannibalism -- the
big men eat the little men. You find anyone successful in the
oil business, and he's got a guy somewhere who wants to knife
him. I think every oil person is a J.R. Ewing." -- A Houston citizen.
- The image of the Texas oilman as a crude,
blustery, high roller was magnified in the 1950s book and movie
"Giant," in which James Dean played oilman Jett Rink.
- Once upon a time the television series
"Dallas" depicted J.R. Ewing as public enemy number one. The popular
series depicted a bunch of egotistical high rollers out to cheat
- "Dallas" was followed by "Dynasty," which
continued to project a very negative, false, distorted image of
- First there was the Exxon Valdez. Now there
is the "old, rickety" oil tanker Prestige, which cracked and leaked
about seven million gallons of oil along the coast of Spain. Spillage
is a major public image problem. The public doesn't understand
that these disasters have nothing to do with geoscientists and
- "An MBA sitting in front of a computer
trading natural gas and electricity has replaced the grizzled
roughneck in recent years as the icon of the energy industry.
There is a basic distrust of pricing fundamentals, causing a flight
of investment capital from the oil industry." -- The Houston Chronicle.
- "Offshore drilling is an inherently dirty
business. Even the newest technology would still significantly
pollute and forever despoil the only remaining pristine waters
left in the Gulf of Mexico." -- Editorial in a recent Florida
- "Job opportunities are poor; career options
are limited; oil companies continuously lay off personnel; earth
science students are nerds, unaware of what happens in society,
do not care about their appearance and are idealistic." -- A public
survey by Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
- "The current gasoline price run-up has
reinforced the image of the energy industry as a villain. This
looks uncomfortably close to price gouging." -- The Houston Chronicle.
Well, I'm getting tired of this,
and you probably are too, so I'll stop with my favorite: "You rock
people are really weird." -- Taxi driver comment to me, upon learning
of my passion.
Let's face it. The oil industry
has a very poor public image, and geoscientists have NO public image
-- except that they collect rocks and fossils. Reality is very different
How can we expect policy makers
to understand our issues when our neighbors haven't the foggiest
idea of what's going on? We are not a beloved industry in the public
eyes (see page 32). In all the concern over the industries such
as airlines, agriculture, auto and steel, there is little recognition
of the importance of the petroleum industry to security and to our
way of life.
Some have said that changing
our image is an impossible task. My definition of impossible is:
That which no one can do until someone does it.
So, what is AAPG doing?
Significant progress has been
made by the Public Outreach Committee and other AAPG committees
on the following projects. Details can be seen on our Web site (www.aapg.org).
- A media workshop was conducted at the February
AAPG Leadership Conference
in Tulsa to empower and instruct our leaders on how to reach the
media. As Victor Yannacone said, "The salvation of society lies
in education -- not education in the schools, but education through
the mass media, which are now shaping the hopes, aspirations and
moral judgment of this and the next generation."
- Develop a cadre of talented geoscience
writers and speakers who easily communicate energy issues to the
non-technical public and provide them with materials. This will
include a rapid response team that will meet threats to rational
science wherever they occur.
- AAPG's Visiting
Geologists Program is expanding rapidly to reach as many university
students and professors as possible -- to tell them the truth
about energy exploration.
- Develop a graphics collection and prepare
programs for members to use in public presentations. See the Slide
Bank area on the AAPG Web site (January EXPLORER).
- Identify and document examples of outstanding
oil and gas exploration and development operations. Demonstrate
sound and modern E&P practices to the public and the media.
- Publish a colorful and information-packed
booklet for the public of how modern petroleum operations are
conducted without damaging the environment -- based on the recent
AAPG summit in Washington, D.C., "Energy and Environment: A Partnership
- Develop materials that meet teacher needs
-- coordinating with AAPG's Youth Education Activities Committee.
Their Web site (www.aapg.org/k12resources/)
features a special page called "Geo-Resources" for teachers and
volunteers to use for finding teachers aids. Our sister societies
and various state organizations are contributing.
- Develop and implement Earth
Science Week activities and programs, and to become involved
with Earth Day. The American Geological Institute, with strong
financial support from AAPG and the AAPG Foundation, provides
Earth Science Week packets full of teaching materials and activities.
- A special "Knowledge Capture Committee"
will prepare videotape interviews of geologists, landmen, engineers,
refinery employees, drilling contractors and others who may contribute
to the history of the industry. We will work with public television
with the goal of presenting these to the general public.
AAPG will lead the effort to
tell the truth and overcome unscrupulous, unprincipled and scientifically
irrational public perceptions.
We will teach the public that
oil and gas doesn't come from big hollow caverns in the dirt. No
energy consuming person should be left behind in understanding the
basics of where their energy comes from.
Only then will policy makers
pay attention to reality and make rational decisions that have long-term
positive consequences for society.
Public image is everything.