Summary of the National Research Council's Report
U.S. Geological Survey's Energy Resources Program:
Meeting U.S. Energy Resource Needs (12-13-99)
In 1997, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) requested the National Research
Council (NRC) to assess the USGS Energy Resources Program (ERP).
The USGS posed a series of questions to the NRC panel on ERP's mission,
role, balance between environmental and resource studies, effectiveness,
and future direction. The ERP does research regarding the origin
and recoverability of various types of fossils fuels, and assesses the
future of fossil fuels as energy sources. The ERP conducts studies
related the environmental effects of fossil fuels as well. The executive
summary of the report is available on the National Academies publications
is a summary of the five main points made in the report.
The mission of the ERP -- to provide up-to-date and impartial
assessments of geologically based energy resources of the nation and the
world -- is one appropriate for a federal agency to undertake.
Because the panel feels that this mission is a vital contribution to the
federal government, it recommends that the ERP develop a formal mission
statement, along with a strategic plan.
The main focus of the ERP should be onshore energy resources. Its
responsibilities are similar to those of the Mineral Management Service
(MMS), however, the MMS handles only those resources located offshore.
Because of the similar nature of the two programs, the panel recommends
that the two agencies work together closely to produce consistent onshore-offshore
resource policies. Furthermore, the ERP should make sure that its
data are readily available to other related agencies such as the Bureau
of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Forest Service,
and the Department of Energy.
The panel notes that the amount of research related to the environment
is less than that regarding resource assessment. They recommend that
the ERP become familiar with the users of its environmental data to determine
whether the environmental program should be broadened, or if the addition
of specific types of data is all that is necessary. The panel also
discusses the important link between research and data assessment, and
says that a strong research program is essential to the ERP continuing
to provide its unique services. Furthermore, the panel recommends
that the focus of the program be broadened to include geologically based
energy sources beyond oil, gas, and coal.
The panel views the ERP's oil and gas sub-programs as effective.
They express some discontent with the coal sub-program, and urge the ERP
to assess the existing research programs. They also recommend that
modern approaches to sedimentology and stratigraphy, as well as the
involvement of industry and states, be incorporated into new research programs.
An ongoing strategic planning process should be used to guide the evolution
of activities of the ERP. This process should take into account both
changes in policy making environments and new developments in science and
technology. The panel also notes that communication between the oil,
gas, and coal subprograms should be improved, and the the ERP should work
to strengthen its public outreach.
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.
Contributed by Alison Alcott, AGI/AAPG Geoscience Policy Intern
Posted December 20, 1999