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Dave Rensink, AAPG ACE2011 Presidential Address

ACE2011 Houston, Texas

ACE2011 Houston, Texas


AAPG President Dave Rensink addresses the opening session of the 2011 AAPG Annual Convention & Exhibition in Houston, Texas on April 10, 2011.

Full Transcript

And now would you please welcome AAPG president and fellow Houstonian. Today he's standing on his own home turf. Dave Rensink.

Well, thank you, Steve. It is doubly an honor for me to be here since this is my adopted hometown. And those of us on this dais know that these conferences do not happen by accident. They're the result of a lot of hard work, and I want to thank Steve, his organizing committee, and all of the volunteers who have participated in this event. Thank you all very much.

There are some people in the audience that I'd like to recognize. The first is the current executive committee. Would you please stand and be recognized?

Now if we could have the candidates for office, AAPG office. Please stand and be recognized.

I'd also like to recognize those who have laid the groundwork for me, and that is all of the AAPG past presidents. Would you please stand and be recognized?

And the Powers Medal is the highest award that we can give to a member, and I would like the past winners of the Sidney Powers Award to please stand and be recognized.

We've also packed the hall today with some students who've come from across the US, in fact, and from across the world to participate in the Imperial Barrel Award. And I know there are a bunch of them clustered over here. So I'd like you to stand so that we can see the future of AAPG.

So with that, I'm going to segue into what is going to be my talk, which is actually about the future. One of the things I've tried to do this year is to instill within the organization a long term view. And a long term view, by definition, is about 25 years. So what I'm trying to do is to get us to imagine where we will be and what it will be like in 25 years so we can at least be able to anticipate what's going to happen.

And in order to do that, one way is to look at where we are. This is the history of our organization as far as the membership is concerned since about 1980. The big hump is in 1986, and a lot of us remember 1986 vividly. Our membership hit 43,000. We, then, in 20 years, went to our low in 2006 of just under 30,000. As of today, we are pushing 38,000 members, so we're recovered nicely.

So if you look at the last five years of that growth, you can see that there's been an increase in membership in both US and non-US members. The yellow curve is US, and the blue curve is the non-US members. If we just take that projection of the trends that are established, by 2030, there will be parity between the US and non-US members.

Now, clearly, the projection is probably wrong. It won't happen maybe by 2030. It may happen before 2030. But what that will mean as far as this organization is concerned is that the regions will most likely have developed their own annual conference as the European region already has. What we now have as our ICE, International Conference and Exposition, will become redundant at that point and will likely disappear. And at that point, this meeting will very likely become a truly international event. It is not hard to imagine in 2030 that this event could be held in London. In 2035, it could be in Cairo. And 2045, it could be in Singapore.

So this is the kind of thing where the trend, the idea that I want to try to convey within this organization starts thinking along the lines of what could be possible in the near future. Change is inevitable. It's manageable if we're able to recognize it.

This is our age distribution. You can see that almost 50% of our members are over the age of 50. Those of us who are over 60 remember our college days, and we know that a handheld calculator was called a slide rule. We have had a front row seat to the exchange and the expansion of computer technology in this industry. Those on the left hand side of that curve have never known anything but a computer age. Imagine what they will see in 25 years. I also don't want to really mention this, but if you can think 25 years down the road, the youngest of half of our membership is going to be 75, and that's not very much something you want to think about in long term.

We have a bit of a disconnect in our membership, and that is in gender. The red part of it shows our female membership. 10% percent of our active members, 20% of our associate numbers, and 30% of our students are female. And the aggregate, then, works out to be something less than 17% of the total. This is an incredible disconnect with what is happening today. This slide shows female enrollment in graduate schools over about the last 10 years, and it is now approximately a 50/50 split within grad schools. You can look at the students we have here. It is pretty close to, in some respects, a 50/50 split on these teams.

So what we're going to see in the very near future is an influx of a lot more women, because 50% of the new professionals coming into the industry today are female. So not only in the near future are we going to be getting a little bit older as us old guys continue to age, and we bring younger ones in. In the long term, we're going to be getting younger clearly, but fortunately, with the influx, we're going to see a lot of influx of female members, I think, in the very near future. So at the very least, we're going to become a much more attractive looking lot.

All right. One thing that has not changed, however, for the most-- in universities, particularly in the US and a good part of Europe-- is that we are not looked at as the profession of first choice. This is a 2006 survey that indicates that we ranked fourth behind government, environment, and academia as far as desirable professions. The interesting thing, though, is you look at where they go to work-- that same group goes to work-- most of them-- well, it's almost even split between the petroleum industry and into the environmental industry.

So what we are doing is that, although we are not very desirable, we are attracting the best and the brightest within this organization. And you must wonder why this industry is doing that. Well, obviously, the big starting salaries is a big part of it. But a large part of it is that the perception of this industry, of being dirty and low tech, is pretty much not a true statement, and they get in, and they find out that that is exactly the case. We are not low tech. You can't get around the fact that it takes a huge piece of equipment to drill a well. But on every desk of every geoscientist in this industry today is a computer tied into a mainframe.

And what we need to look at, also, is the impact of the industry in general is going to have on us, because what impacts the industry impacts AAPG. These two slides show the split between-- actually the aging in effect of the use of energy globally. The one on the left is total energy use in 1973 and then in 2008 by region. That big blue on the left is OECD, which is US and most of Europe.

What has happened is energy use in 35 years has moved from west to east. But when you look at the slide on the right with the makeup of that energy use, oil and natural gas still account for over 50% of that total energy use. If we look at where crude oil has been discovered and produced, you look at the geographic distribution in '73 and in 2008, and in truth, there's not much difference. Oil still comes from the same place so that has for 35 years. Natural gas, on the other hand, has been moving from west to east as far as where the production comes from.

Now, I said that the oil-- we pretty much have found-- oil comes where we've already found it. Geographically, it hasn't changed much. But where it is exported has changed quite a bit. These are, I think, 2008 or 2009 numbers. I draw your attention to the far right of that thing, which says the top importers. The US is still by far the big dog on the block. We probably will be for a long time.

But interestingly, when you start looking at total energy, we used to be the largest whole energy consumer in the world. We were passed by China sometime last year. So we're now the second most-- the biggest energy consumer in the world. But if you look at the ranking of the first five of the biggest importers, four of the top five are in Asia. We are clearly, as an industry, moving from west to east. We, as an organization, will move from west to east.

One of the questions that I've gotten from students as I've traveled around on your dollar-- or most of your dollars, as a matter of fact-- has been, yeah, it's kind of a neat industry, but it will last long enough for me to retire from it? I would say emphatically yes. You look at-- this is how we use oil, as far as what we do with crude oil. And the graph on the left, that big red bar that expands as you go toward 2008, that's transportation. And all you're doing with the other bit is looking at end members, but still, over 60% of crude oil is used for transportation. That 60% is pretty much split uniformly between gasoline, motor diesel, and aviation fuels. It's pretty much an even split across the board.

So the question becomes, is there a future? And one of the things you're thinking right now, particularly if you're under the age of 30, is that, well, natural gas and other alternatives will be displacing oil as a need for transportation. I don't think so.

This is a graph that I generated from some data that I pulled off the internet, obviously. It is the last data point on there is 2000. It was estimated in 2000 that there were approximately 600 million automobiles in the world. About a third of them were in the United States. And the person who pulled the data together was brave enough to predict that, by 2030, that number would double. And you're thinking, how can that possibly be that we'd have twice as many cars than the world today? We're churning those out on a world basis at 50 million cars a year. It's not hard to double this thing between now and 1930.

The alternative fuels, natural gas, which-- I'm a big proponent of using natural gas for transportation. I'm a big proponent of biofuels. They aren't going to be displacing anything. They are going to be making up the gap between supply and demand. So we, I think-- you have traffic future in this business. I cannot see anything other than a discovery that will totally replace the internal combustion engine doing anything that could harm us at any time in the near future. We should be able to celebrate our 200th anniversary in 106 years. I would be nice to be here, but that's not likely to happen, either.

One of the things I've also noticed when I've been traveling around, that, wherever you are happen to be in the world, if you are in a group of geologists, the cultural differences really don't seem that great. You get the same comfortable feeling in New Delhi, in London, in Aberdeen as you do in Houston.

So let me leave you with this thought. We think of ourselves as a family, in effect, kind of a small circle, but a family. Let me propose that what we are is a tribe. We have a common ancestry. We are all products of a geoscience education. We have shared experiences and culture. We all make a living in much the same way. Our leadership is neither formalized nor permanent. God knows I'm out here in two and a half months. We look to others in the tribe for support, and we speak a dialect that is not well understood outside the tribe.

I truly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for the opportunity to have been your president. Thank you very much.

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In the News

Explorer Director’s Corner
In his presidential address at the 2011 Annual Convention and Exhibition in Houston, then-president David Rensink talked about the fact that AAPG is a tribe, a tribe of geoscientists whose common focus is oil and natural gas.
American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

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