Calling All Scouts

"Happy New Year!" to everyone—I hope that each of you was able to take extended time off to be with family and friends and recharge for 2008. Last year was certainly an interesting time for our profession, with oil prices approaching $100 per barrel. Opinions on where prices will go are numerous; most people tend to agree we have entered a new regime in which the lowest forecasts are higher than any of us would have guessed 10 years ago. I am proud to be part of a profession and industry that, despite the historic commodity prices, continues to take a cautious, technically-based, and generally conservative approach to investment and personnel decisions. Your membership and active participation in SPE is testimony to your commitment to helping our industry maintain the highest standards of technical expertise and professionalism.

Knowing this makes it doubly frustrating to read about how unpopular our industry continues to be with the general public. The Houston Chronicle recently reported on one major oil company executive’s recent 50-city public relations tour that achieved very mixed results. It seems explaining the magnitude of investment required, complexities of the business, and commitments to safety and environment does little to stem the general public’s “greed” opinion when gasoline prices are $3 per gallon and companies are posting large profits. To the extent that this opinion transfers to any degree from the faceless companies and industry to our profession bothers me, and I am sure you, greatly.

This reinforces my opinion that it will be grassroots ambassadorship that eventually turns the tide to more accurate impressions of our industry and profession. Recall that Ambassadorship is our theme for this year. I am fond of (over)using the phrase "it’s a marathon, not a sprint" to my kids when they face temporary obstacles (and to myself when parenting gets frustrating!), but this effort is truly a marathon that will likely take a generation or two to see material results. And it will take each of us individually doing the small things to achieve these results.

Some "Gatorade" for this marathon is a new ambassadorship initiative that your Gulf Coast Section Community Services Committee is pursuing in conjunction with organizations that I am sure many of you have fond memories of, either as participants, parents, or leaders. The GCS will participate in the Boy Scouts of America Sam Houston Area Council Scout Fair on April 19th at Reliant Arena. I call this the "OTC of Scouting" to give you an idea of the magnitude and excitement of the event. In addition, we would like to develop a healthy list of volunteers to serve as Boy Scout Merit Badge Counselors for engineering and other related merit badges. More than 60,000 kids participate in Boy Scouts in the greater Houston area, so this could be a very fruitful avenue for providing a large number of kids with accurate introductions to the engineering field and the oil and gas industry. Requirements from you are minimal: the kids come to you, and you get to talk about your job to a captive but interested audience! The committee will also be pursuing other ideas with Boy Scouts of America, and with the Girl Scouts of the USA as well. If you have an interest in assisting this effort, or just want more information, contact Community Services Chair Russ Neuschaefer or me. No need to be a former or current Scout, just be willing to help kids while running one small leg of this important marathon. Special thanks to SPE member Walter Hyde with the Boy Scouts of America Sam Houston Area Council for his vision and energy in planting the seeds for these grassroots ideas to germinate.


Engineering Education


Now that I have "whined" about perceptions of our industry, I would like to bring to your attention an important early-January event that you may have overlooked during the holiday rush. This event has a special opening "Whine and Cheese" reception to get the whining out of the way before getting to work on the problem! The Seventh Colloquium on Petroleum Engineering Education (CPEE) will be conveniently located in the Houston area for Gulf Coast Section members who are interested in attending. The CPEE will be held at The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center on January 7-10.

The CPEE is convened by SPE and the Association of Heads of US Petroleum Engineering Schools. The conference will address important issues for the industry as it strives to obtain the high-quality professionals needed to conquer tomorrow’s technical and social challenges. Typical attendees at this event include petroleum engineering faculty, engineers who are members of industry advisory boards to petroleum engineering departments, chief engineers and managers charged with recruiting and retaining talent, HR representatives with responsibility for learning and organizational development, and government representatives. More details can be found at in the Meetings/Events area. Single day registration options are available.

If you have any questions or comments about Study Groups, volunteering, or any topic at all, contact me at