ALEXANDRIA, VA. Because Earth's resources are vital to all forms
of life, the production, exploration, and policy decisions needed
to manage natural resources are pressing questions for our society.
In the May 1996 issue of GEOTIMES, two petroleum geologists and a
hydrogeologist look at political, economic, and cultural aspects of
fossil fuels and water.
Dave Houseknecht, energy program coordinator for the U.S.
Geological Survey, routinely briefs members of Congress and their
staffs on the agency's periodic assessment of the nation's oil and
gas resources. "We represent the interface between the earth
scientists who assess the nation's resources and the policy-makers
who make the laws that determine the use of the nation's lands and
resources," explains Houseknecht. Science strives to be unbiased,
factual, and objective, he states, but politics are governed by
different rules. In his article, "Communicating Science in a
Politically Charged Environment," he explains how he crosses the
great divide between science and politics by teaching a crash
course in geology to nontechnically trained congressional staffers,
presenting the fundamentals of resource assessment and the
uncertainty of probability figures.
While the United States debates whether to develop hard-to-reach
oil deposits, its neighbor, Venezuela, studies ways to extract its
impressive supply. Venezuela contains the most abundant
concentrations of hydrocarbons on Earth, more plentiful than the
Persian Gulf. The country has decided to open its doors to foreign
exploration companies. In his article, "Looking for Partners,
Looking for Oil: Venezuela Plans on New Production," petroleum
geologist Donald C. Swanson examines the shrewd business strategy
of Venezuela and the enormous economic potential of this stable,
friendly, democratic state.
"Natural Bubbling Brew: The Carbonated Springs of Saratoga," by
hydrogeologist Donald Siegel takes a contemporary look at this rare
treasure which not only played a part in his childhood, but in the
lives of the Iroquois Indians and the 19th-century European
immigrants. "As the burning mountains of Italy command the
astonishment of mankind, so the cold boiling springs of Saratoga
... ought to demand [its] adoration." says Dr. Valentine Seamen,
who wrote about the Saratoga springs in 1805. Considered to have
medicinal properties, the salty carbonated water was used to treat
yellow fever, stomachaches, and other ailments. Later the carbon
dioxide was extracted and used in carbonated beverages. Yet even
as its curative and commercial attributes became known to millions,
its sources of salinity and carbon-dioxide supply still mystify
Coming up in June ... GEOTIMES takes a look at the stuff below our
feet -- soil. Four feature articles analyze the societal and
geologic questions that soil science addresses and the modeling
tools used to answer them.
GEOTIMES is published by the American Geological Institute, a
nonprofit federation of 29 member societies representing earth and
environmental scientists. AGI also produces GeoRef, an online
bibliographic database of more than 1.9 million geological
references which serves a worldwide geoscience community.