More Challenges, More Opportunities

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Once again, Hollywood is on the offensive against the oil industry – a documentary titled “Greedy Lying Bastards: Big Oil’s Dirty Secret” is scheduled for release this month.

According to a February press release, the film’s director, Craig Rosebraugh, wanted to “undertake a project that would uncover the hidden agenda of the oil industry and provide answers as to why we as a nation fail to implement clean energy policies and take effective action on important problems such as climate change.”

The film claims that the oil industry has waged a campaign of lies designed to thwart attempts to stop climate change by using its influence to minimize regulations and to sustain unnecessary subsides that are crushing the economy.

Climate change, as we all know, has been a controversial issue for many years now, and when combined with the debate on hydraulic fracturing has kept our industry in a somewhat negative spotlight.

As earth scientists, we all have studied the earth’s history and know that climate change is a real phenomenon, driven by suns cycles and changes in the earth’s orbit – and one thing is certain: We will have periods of global warming and global cooling, and these cycles are part of our earth’s history since its beginning.

The debate is not whether we have caused climate change through the use of fossil fuels, but how much influence have we had on the natural trends here on earth.

Geology is the least taught science in our school’s curriculum. Most students get little if any exposure to earth science.

Recommendations by the National Science Education Standards for grades 5-8 include:

  • Structure of the earth system.
  • Earth’s history.
  • Earth in the solar system.
    • This usually is taught as part of one eight-week unit.

Additional instruction recommended for grades 9-12 includes:

  • Energy in the earth system.
  • Geochemical cycles.
  • Origin and evolution of the earth system.
  • Origin and evolution of the universe.

Few if any schools offer a class in earth science in high school. Contrast that with courses offered in chemistry, biology and physics. Almost all high schools in the United States offer at least one if not more classes in these subjects.

Data compiled by the National Science Teachers Association compared the number of teachers in 2005 that taught other sciences:

  • Biology – 52,697 teachers.
  • Chemistry – 27,947 teachers.
  • Physics – 16,301 teachers.
  • Earth science – 15,611 teachers.
  • Physical science – 25,499 teachers.

Of all the major sciences taught, the smallest number of teachers is in earth science – so is there any surprise that there is so much controversy and misinformation about climate change and the effects of hydraulic fracturing in the press today?

I encourage you to get involved in these debates. It is only through the dissemination of correct and factual information that we can have a profound influence on events and the future of our industry.

Now would be a great time to visit the DEG website, because there we are attempting to give you the resources necessary for you to participate in these debates.

On our website you’ll find links to articles of interest, plus a section devoted entirely to shale gas, including links to peer-reviewed papers, articles, datasets and conference proceedings.

Many upcoming AAPG meetings will have sessions devoted to environmental issues.

The upcoming Pacific Section annual meeting, for example, set April 19-24 in Monterey, Calif., has a section devoted to “Remediation and the Environment,” and there will be a section at the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Pittsburgh focusing on “Energy and the Environment.”

Here are some of the topics that will be covered:

  • Environmental risks in deep offshore and frontier areas.
  • Water risks and mitigation strategies from onshore unconventional resource development.
  • Understanding stray gas.
  • Air quality concerns from oil and gas production.
  • Regulatory issues with hydraulic fracturing.
  • Advances in carbon capture and geologic storage in North America.
  • CCS and CCUS.
  • Resource development for a healthy society.

And with the increased interests on unconventional resources internationally, DEG also will participate in a special session on hydraulic fracturing at the AAPG International Conference and Exhibition in Cartagena in September. This session will include a presentation and a panel discussion.

As always, we need to get involved at all levels and get the word out to politicians and the public.

Take any opportunity to speak to the public and the regulators. AAPG members – and DEG members in particular – are in a unique position to spread the truth since many of us live and work in non-oil patch parts of the United States and the world.

The DEG hopes that this and other efforts in the coming year will keep you engaged. If you are not a DEG member, consider joining and getting involved in DEG and the environmental side of the energy industry.

DEG will continue to do its best to keep those issues in front of the AAPG membership.

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Division Column-DEG Tom J. Temples

Tom J. Temples is DEG President.

Division Column DEG

The Division of Environmental Geosciences (DEG), a division of AAPG, is concerned with increasing awareness of the environment and the petroleum industry and providing AAPG with a scientific voice in the public arena. Among its objectives are educating members about important environmental issues, supporting and encouraging research on the effects of exploration and production on the environment, and communicating scientific information to concerned governmental agencies.

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