Educating the Public

I received several positive comments about my soapbox diatribe on how badly the general public – especially the “lay press” – needs to be educated about what we folks in the oil patch actually do for a living. I also received a question from the Peanut Gallery.

Mohamed asks:
“Would you please suggest some websites that could be helpful for educating the public about what crude oil and gas are?”

Well, Mohamed, you have asked the right person. I’ve been active for decades with SPE in developing tools that industry professionals can use to educate the public, from young children to grown-ups. I helped design the first SPE Magic Suitcase prototype for doing porosity and permeability demonstrations in the classroom, using wet chemistry glassware to show waterflood and gas flood mechanisms. Since then, I also served on the SPE Energy Information Committee, which helped corral PowerPoint slideshows and various other resources for public education on SPE’s website: <a href="<>.

You can also order an Energy4Me kit ($30), which has videos on CD-ROM, flash cards with questions on the front and answers on the back, coloring books, sample presentations, and other school-friendly resources. And if you give a presentation in a school, SPE will send a free copy of the book Oil and Natural Gas to the school’s library.
(Guess who helped edit that book to be sure our industry was portrayed correctly….)

Here’s another website with excellent videos about the oil industry. Key Energy Services had one of their summer interns named Lauren, who is studying Petroleum Engineering at University of
Texas, interview drillers and engineers in the field for a series of exciting videos called Unlocked:
John Honeycutt, Sr. Director of Marketplace Development at Key Energy Services, is going to provide these professional videos on disc for the SPE Magic Suitcase and Energy4Me website.

Thanks, John!

The limiting factor in educating the public is not the number or quality of tools available. There are two basic constraints: time and corporate support. Petroleum engineers and geoscientists are so busy working on big projects – and documenting them! – they don’t have time to visit the schools or speak to the community to describe the technology behind oil and gas extraction. Taking a half-day off from work requires managerial approval, and investing in the whiz-bang videos that will capture people’s attention in this high-tech world is expensive, and corporations have lots of other opportunities in which to invest their money.

But when the lack of qualified people or bans on fracturing start becoming serious constraints for oil and gas companies seeking to make profits for their shareholders, they will start investing in public education initiatives. And it has started already.

The oil and gas industry has demonstrated time and time again that if you throw enough money and brains at a particular problem, solutions will be found. All it takes is money and brains. You can get money from lots of rich people in lots of places. As for brains, those you have to develop. If each one of us does a little bit, it will all add up quickly.


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