American Association of Petroleum Geologists

AAPG Geoscience and Energy Office in Washington DC
December 2008 : View as PDF

Text of Scott Tinker's Letter to President-elect Obama

Dear President-elect Obama:

On behalf of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), I offer congratulations on your election.

AAPG is an international scientific organization with a growing membership of 33,000 members in 116 countries comprising scientists and professionals in industry, government, and academe who study, practice, teach, and regulate the science and process of finding and producing energy.

Most geologists, rightfully, consider themselves environmentalists. As such, my colleagues and I deal daily with the tough challenge of balancing energy, the economy and the environment. We do what many others merely talk about.

During the campaign you identified the economy, energy, and environment as three key priorities of your presidency. This is an ambitious agenda; contrary to what some would have us believe, these tough, interwoven, global challenges offer no simple solutions. More importantly, they are inextricably linked—in fact, symbiotic—meaning that we need to consider them together.

To succeed, we must build bridges between energy, the economy and the environment, between industry, government and academe, and between developed and developing nations. Building these bridges requires leadership, vision, action and foundations rooted in fact. Some facts and ideas for consideration:

  • Global energy demand continues to rise, reflecting growth in population and industrialization. Fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas, coal, supply 87% of global energy needs.
  • The global economy is fueled by affordable, reliable energy. If the economy is not healthy, the environment suffers. An interesting paradox: a healthy environment requires a healthy economy, that economy requires energy, and today that energy is largely fossil fuels.
  • An abrupt, unilateral shift of our energy portfolio is both unwise and unnecessary, especially when we can leverage the fuels that we have to expand alternatives—a fossil fuel bridge to an alternate energy future.
  • It won’t happen in four or even eight years. Not because of entrenched interests, or a lack of will, but rather because of the size and scale of global energy markets and infrastructure.
  • The term energy independence fails to recognize that in a globalized world, we are interdependent.
  • Far better to advocate energy security, which would emphasize:
    • Enhanced energy efficiency;
    • Broad diversification of the energy portfolio;
    • A global carbon price that is transparent, stable, economy-wide, uses revenues wisely, and is coordinated globally (does cap and trade satisfy these criteria?);
    • Advancing global energy trade and investment, such as LNG, clean coal, advanced nuclear, scalable renewables;
    • Dialog between developing and developed nations; and
    • Balanced education, training, and R&D policies.

Energy security is an achievable goal, both here in the U.S. and across the globe. But the U.S. must lead by balancing and integrating its economic, energy, and environmental policies to deliberately and progressively achieve this shift to a new energy future. If we do not lead with a steady and well-considered approach, the world will either continue to use fossil fuels almost exclusively, or make abrupt unilateral leaps into an alternative future, either of which would have unintended and severe consequences.

In 2008 my energy-related travels have taken me to four continents to interact with governments, industry and academe. Your election has created a global buzz unlike anything I’ve seen before. It is an exciting opportunity for the U.S. to provide global leadership.

Now is the time for all of us to step up and deliver. I and members of AAPG look forward to working with you on this important effort to help bring science to policy and to build a fossil energy bridge to an alternate energy future.

Warmest regards,

Scott W. Tinker, Ph.D.
President, AAPG
Director, Bureau of Economic Geology and State Geologist of Texas
Professor, Allday Endowed Chair, The University of Texas at Austin

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