Boring idiot or academic fool?

Harvey Yates, guest columnist

In August, John Geissman, Professor Emeritus of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico, published an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal protesting my proposal to drill reconnaissance wells in Valencia County.

His concerns were three: 1. The possibility of damage to the freshwater aquifer; 2. The need to thwart efforts (believed to be oil and gas drilling and production) that are “the root causes of the global climate catastrophe staring us in the face…” and; 3. That one must drill 10,000 feet or more “before approaching a possible hydrocarbon source rock” in Valencia County.

I disagree with Professor Geissman on every point. Thousands of wells have been drilled in New Mexico. If freshwater conductors were damaged often, as implied, one would hear about it again and again. As the head of the Oil Conservation Commission explained at the July 15 hearing in Valencia County, the Regulatory Commission enacts and enforces strict rules to protect aquifers.

What about the “global climate catastrophe staring us in the face”? A global catastrophe is more likely to emerge because nations are producing too little fossil fuels – resulting from the imposition of incoherent plans to limit exploration and production and over-reliance on solar and wind energy.

Will the European Union survive this winter? Will the UK sink into an economic depression? At the end of October, natural gas prices here averaged about $6.45 per mcf. In Europe and the UK, the price was around $65 per mcf.

Businesses are closing and too many families are forced to choose between heating or eating out. Yet both the UK and Europe have significant untapped hydrocarbon resources – untapped because the leaders of those nations responded to messages like Professor Geissman’s commentary.

They chose to go “green,” decided to curb domestic fossil fuel production, including “fracking,” and then relied on Russia to supply gas when they needed it. The problems will not be limited to the European continent.

The New England grid operator (recently) warned of possible power outages this winter due to insufficient natural gas. And here in New Mexico, foolish decisions by our Regulatory Commission have resulted in the shutdown of a coal-fired power plant in the San Juan Basin. While China and India start up a new coal-fired power plant every week.

As we witness dismal results this winter being promoted by the climate religion that many claim is “proven science,” let’s have some fun. Let’s bet, and let’s name the starting well.

The bet: Professor Geissman writes that no oil is found above 10,000 feet in Valencia County. I think he’s wrong. So let’s bet. The professor can choose the amount to bet up to $100,000.

I bet we can find commercial hydrocarbons above 10,000 feet in Valencia county in the first well.

When asked about the risks of finding recoverable hydrocarbons, I respond that the industry generally assigns a 10 percent chance of success to a well drilled in a wild basin, but that good geology improves those odds. I also said that I believe we could find recoverable hydrocarbons within three wells; but here I propose that we bet on the first well.

The well would be drilled on our property and at a location of our choosing – miles from any home. Professor Geissman shouldn’t have any trouble funding his bet that we’ll drill a dry hole.

Progressives would come running to help him fund the bet because he’s an “expert.” If I win, the proceeds will be split between El Ranchito de Los Nino’s and St. Mary’s Catholic School, both located in the Valencia region. If Professor Geissman wins, the proceeds are his.

Naming the fountain: Let’s start by naming the fountain “Valencia County No. 1”. If the well is a dry hole, we’ll change its name to “Drilling Fool No. 1”. If the drilling is successful, the well will not only be known as the first producing well in the Region of Valencia, but also as “Academic Fool #1”.

Let’s have some fun!

(Harvey Yates, a graduate of the University of Texas and Cornell Law School, has been in the ranching and real estate business in Valencia County for more than three decades and is also the president of an oil and gas exploration company.)