Education is not a way to escape poverty; it is a way of fighting it.—Julius Nyerere, Tanzanian president, 1922–1999
As the COVID-19 pandemic subsides in most parts of the world, and as a global society we commit ourselves to its control and eradication everywhere, it is time for our “ship” to leave port. As we pull up our anchor (“anchors aweigh” means the anchor is off bottom and the ship is free to move), we must accept that there are risks out there, but we must get back to the task of exploration and production of oil and gas as never before. As I predicted in this column many months ago, we are definitely leaner (fewer people, with even more work to do) and now we need to be much meaner (better skilled, better motivated, and better focused). All the old adages apply: “life isn’t fair,” “there are no guarantees,” etc.—but a commitment to “duty, honor, and service” (an unofficial motto of my employer, Texas A&M University) stands firm in my mind for our industry. As we leave port, we must have the confidence and purpose that has defined our industry since its inception—improving lives, mitigating poverty, and providing the energy to enable a modern global society.
Life’s a bit like mountaineering—never look down.— Edmund Hillary, New Zealand explorer, 1919–2008
I was in a panel session a few weeks back and, as SPE President, I am certain they saved the toughest question for me: “What are the reasons we must change as an industry?” I confess that this question was particularly hard because it requires a sketch of our future strategies as an industry and as a professional society, which in many ways remains undefined. Fortunately, I had some advance notice and was able to put some thought into my answer. Paraphrasing Darwin, “we must adapt or die.” It is that simple. Our industry provides enormous societal benefit, and just as the future of renewables lies in metals for batteries, conducting materials, circuitry, etc., the present and future of manufacturing lies in oil and gas. There simply are no viable substitutes.