By all accounts, Congressional Visits Day (CVD) was a success -- not only in the overall number of participants in the events, but in the responses from the many visits that AAPG representatives made to the offices of the Congressmen and Senators.
AAPG President-Elect Lee Billingsley, DPA President-Elect Richard Green and AAPG-AGI liaison G. Warfield “Skip” Hobbs trekked back and forth across Capitol Hill to visit with Congressional staff and elected representatives as well as with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee staff and the House Energy and House Resource Committee Staff.
The theme for this year’s CVD was “Science, Engineering & Technology: Fueling America’s Innovation,” and the AAPG delegation took full advantage of that theme to promote the Association’s contributions to sustaining science and innovation in the geosciences.
The delegation also reinforced the overarching theme for CVD with their statements of support for federally funded research in the petroleum geosciences.
Under the auspices of AAPG (for the first time), AGI, GSA and AGU, more than 70 geoscientists participated in CVD. This brought the geoscience association sponsorship for CVD to more than 10 percent of the non-corporate sponsorship. This presence has and will continue to heighten the awareness and appreciation among policy makers of the contribution that the geosciences and particularly petroleum geosciences make in global economics, education, science and technology.
During their day on Capitol Hill, the AAPG participants visited the offices of approximately a dozen members of the House and Senate and met with the staff of both the House and Senate committees with natural resource and energy jurisdiction.
In each office, they spoke to the theme of the CVD activities and stated their case for federal funding for the sciences and geosciences. In every office, they left a packet of material that included a one-page flier explaining the activities and functions of the AAPG -- and extended an offer to provide additional information, data-related material for the use of the House member or Senator.
In several instances, those offers were welcomed with an immediate request for additional statistics, written material or further briefings.
And what did our members learn?
From my observations and discussions with the AAPG delegation as we made our visits on Capitol Hill I extracted the following sentiments about the process:
- Their understanding of the process of policy making and formulation of law is far more complex than they understood it to be before they participated in CVD.
- Policymakers need access to good, scientific-based information -- but in and of itself good, scientific-based information is insufficient to guarantee that good policy will emerge from the process simply because policy makers have access to good science.
- Much of the important analysis in any policy debate is brought together by individual office staff and committee staff and often, the Senate or House members may not even see the actual information that establishes their position on a given issue.
- To ensure that good geoscience information and data finds its necessary place in the formulation of sound and favorable energy policy -- that policy which will impact the very future of the petroleum industry not only in the United States, but globally -- some fraction of the petroleum geoscience community will have to convey that information and data into the office of their policy makers.
What is more, those who choose to participate also will have to take the additional steps of explaining and defending the quality and integrity of the science.
The AAPG members also learned that two increasingly important issues in the Association’s policy position portfolio are front and center in energy discussions in this Second Session of the 109th Congress. Those issues are:
- Opening a larger portion of the OCS for exploration and development.
- Work force training and education.
They also learned that their input in Washington and in their home districts can influence the outcome of these issues in Washington.
These are my impressions and should not be seen as other than that. However, the next time you have occasion to talk to Lee, Richard or Skip, ask them what they thought. I hope they will convey the same interest and commitment that I sensed as we worked through CVD 2006.
I also hope that their impressions and excitement will be enough to encourage more of you to participate next year and in subsequent years. As Association members, your participation will make a difference!