A Perspective from AIPG: National Energy Policy

Title: A Perspective from AIPG: National Energy Policy

Author: William J. Siok, AIPG Executive Director

Publication: The Outcrop, August 2001, p. 1, 6-7

Practicing geologists can view the ongoing energy situation from a number of perspectives. As consumer, the geologist sees regular and sometimes dramatic increases in the costs of heating a home, operating a car, etc. As prospector/developer, the geologist sees economic opportunities, as well as the attendant headaches associated with environmental permits and access to public lands. As taxpayer, the geologist is conscious of the political fodder made of the issues generally considered together under the category of “energy crisis”.

Prominent members of our professional community have been addressing the ‘crisis’ for years, providing educated and technically convincing arguments for reinvigorating the development of U.S. energy resources. Many rational arguments have been proffered by knowledgeable geologists regarding our national energy outlook. Because the system is so sensitive to the political ramifications of extreme positions, our elected leaders seem to be paralyzed against taking action that is in the best interest of the United States regarding energy policy.

Not being an expert in the subject of known reserves, prospective fields, outer continental shelf (OCS), or strategic policy, I am still astute enough to believe that the United States is entirely too dependent upon foreign energy sources. Our leaders are often uncertain of the consequences of defending the environmental feasibility of development on public land. We geologists, I think, are too reserved as a professional community. We do not champion adequately our collective contributions to the national best interest through our work and our education.

As a practitioner, I am proud of my chosen profession, honored to have worked with and studied the work of so many great geologists. My professional experience leads me to believe that we have the right and an obligation to tout our collective achievements on behalf of society to lawmakers and citizens alike. We should do this, particularly when the issue at hand impacts a national economy so dependent upon adequate energy resources. Professional associations represent one of the vehicles through which all geologists can inform the public about our work, our achievements, and our concerns.

The American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG), as many know, was focused in its early history primarily upon the issue of professional credentials. In later years, AIPG also began to advocate on behalf of geology, geologists, and the public welfare. Over the years, AIPG has developed position and policy statements toward the goal of reminding and educating laymen of all stripes about geologists’ roles. A common element of each statement directed to the public is an emphasis upon the fundamental contribution made by the science and by practitioners of geology.

AIPG is particularly cognizant of the increasing demands for energy as a direct consequence of our continuously expanding economy. Increasingly, AIPG is called upon to share its perspective about this crucial issue. Consequently, at a meeting of Past-Presidents held in October, 2000, this distinguished group drafted an energy position statement. The statement, currently under consideration by the entire membership of AIPG, acknowledges the fundamental importance of geologic input. This statement will provide a glimpse of the consensus within AIPG, which is that geologists and geology are critically important to formulation of sound national policy.

From Past AIPG Presidents: Proposed AIPG Position on National Energy Policy (January 20, 2001)

“AIPG encourages the U.S. Government to develop a comprehensive national energy policy and strategies to achieve that policy. The crux of the policy should be to maintain an adequate supply of affordable energy delivered in an environmentally responsible way. The U.S. economy relies on the availability of electricity, heat, and transportation fuels. Our standard of living requires vast quantities of energy resources needed to power our computers, light our buildings, to heat our homes, and to run our vehicles, trains, ships, and airplanes. Our current energy consumption requires significant quantities of domestic and foreign geological resources — oil and gas, coal, and uranium. Hydroelectric power from dams and geothermal, wind, and solar power are locally significant. All the options for energy production have associated environmental and economic concerns and tradeoffs that should be factored into a comprehensive national energy policy. Decreased consumption through conservation and increased efficiency are laudable goals, particularly with an increasing U.S. population, but energy availability will continue to be a major factor in U.S. environmental, economic, and military policies. Geologists contribute to exploration for energy resources, production, environmental protection of groundwater and other resources during production, safety of facilities from earthquakes, floods, and other natural hazards, waste disposal, and reclamation of land disturbed during production. A comprehensive national energy policy should incorporate the knowledge of geologists about the domestic and international resource base, environmental concerns, and hazards.”

AIPG has a politically diverse membership. Consequently, policies and positions advanced during the reign of any Executive Committee are crafted to provide maximum emphasis to the practice and the science of geology. AIPG does its best, as a professional advocate, to tout the role of geologists and geology in energy-problem resolution, rather than defend a particular argument. AIPG membership reflects some of the diversity of political opinion common in society at large, but all members demonstrate an uncompromising and unified consensus that a very important place for geology is in formulation of the future energy policy of the United States.

You may not be a member of AIPG. Nevertheless, please consider this as an invitation to provide any comments you feel appropriate regarding the proposed position statement included here. AIPG, as an advocate for the profession, strives to support practices and policies that will not only benefit the public, but many practitioners of geology as well.