Public Energy Education

On the important news front, Allen Shook, SPE GCS vice chair, represented the Gulf Coast Section at the Public Energy Education Summit on July 26, facilitated by the Global Energy Management Institute at the University of Houston. In light of increased public focus on energy companies, there is a growing need and desire for educating the general public about our industry. The cost of continued widespread ignorance and poor image is very real and manifested in greater unnecessary government intervention, groundless litigation, and skilled-labor shortages. There are numerous high-quality local and regional education efforts and public relations campaigns underway, including several sponsored by our Gulf Coast Section. This summit was attended by a cross-section of upstream industry representatives to share information about those efforts and discuss the possibility of a national coordinating council or committee to develop a consistent and more effective national industry message. In attendance were representatives from TIPRO, Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, Kansas Independent O&G Association, Oklahoma Energy Resource Board, Ohio O&G Association, Independent O&G Association of Pennsylvania, New Mexico O&G Association, PTTC, Greater Houston Energy Education Collaborative, and The Foundation for Energy Education (Texas). There are many excellent education and public relations programs underway across the producing states, but our GCS membership and volunteers should be proud that our all-volunteer efforts are second to none! While it was agreed the time is right for a national council, all in attendance also believed the most effective programs were those at the grass-roots level, like our GCS Magic Suitcases, scholarships, recruiting fairs, and OTC student tours, to name just a few.

The major questions facing the formation of such a national council are numerous, including under what organization should it be formed, what does the program look like, and of course how is it funded. The good news is that initial efforts are underway with the IPAA using work being done by Ed Cross (Kansas O&G Assoc.) for Kansas’ Public Outreach Committee to compile a national inventory of public energy education programs already in existence. Ed hopes to have this guide finalized by the end of October and available on IPAA''s web site. Since the summit, IPAA has also already indicated their interest in possibly being the umbrella organization for a national coordinating council.

One further note, while you are channel surfing this fall, be on the lookout for some commercials with a positive Texas oil and gas industry message starring a very well-known national celebrity (with Texas connections). This is a pilot program being run in the Houston area being developed and funded by the Foundation for Energy Education (Texas). If you want to know who the star is (and the Hollywood background) ahead of time, you’ll just have to attend some GCS events, or better yet - be a volunteer, and ask around!