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Congressional Briefings on Gas Hydrates

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Three factors have come together to bring gas-hydrate studies into focus at high levels in government:

  • the Methane Hydrates Research and Development Act of 2000, signed into law by President Clinton in May 2000, which directed the Department of Energy (DOE) to coordinate a program of gas-hydrate research and technology;
  • the National Energy Policy, developed by President Bush shortly after he took office, which focused on making energy more reliable, affordable, and environmentally sound; and
  • the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in September 2001, which prompted many citizens and politicians to evaluate the Nation's reliance on energy resources from the Middle East.

It was therefore no surprise when U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Debbie Hutchinson received a call from a colleague at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), asking her to participate in a briefing for several Senate staffers who wanted to learn about gas hydrates.

Despite the uncertainty in the budget in early January, Debbie participated in two briefings for Congress on January 16, 2003. The first briefing was to the Senate staffers who initially requested it: Myron Nordquist, Chris Lee, and Eric Bovim, all representing Senator Conrad Burns' (Montana) office. Coincidentally, Senator Burns is Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for the Department of the Interior, making a good impression of USGS work imperative. The briefing was given by Debbie, covering an introduction to and geologic aspects of gas hydrates; Barbara Moore (director of NOAA's Undersea Research Program), covering the biological and climate-change aspects of gas hydrates; and Edith Allison (DOE, Fossil Fuels), covering legislative mandates and interagency coordination.

The second briefing was a repeat of the first, but for staffers on the House Energy Resources committee. Tim West, USGS Congressional Liaison, and Frances Pierce, Acting Associate Program Coordinator for the USGS' Energy Resources Program, also participated.

One potential sign of the success of the briefings was their length. We were scheduled for an hour for each briefing and forewarned by others that these rarely go the full length because of the hectic schedules of the staffers. As it turned out, both briefings were lively with questions and discussions and went for a full 90 minutes. Responding to followup inquiries included developing two posters for Senator Burns' staff, one showing the detailed distribution of gas-hydrate resources around the United States, and another composed of maps showing various aspects of global gas-hydrate resources.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Planning Meeting in Woods Hole, MA, on USGS Gas-Hydrates Research
Dec. 2002 / Jan. 2003
Gas Hydrate Studied in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
September 2002
Gas-Hydrate Research Wells Completed in the Canadian Arctic
April 2002

Related Web Sites
Gas Hydrate Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
National Energy Policy
The White House
Senator Conrad Burns
U.S. Senate
PDF document: Methane Hydrates Research and Development Act of 2000
U.S. Department of Energy

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Research cover story:
Competitive Edge of Invasive Species

Lake Mead Work Continues

Outreach Dolphin Rescue

London Interns Tour St. Pete

Congressional Briefing on Gas Hydrates

Volcanic Ash and Aviation Safety

Science Mentoring

Meetings Coastal Vulnerability

Lidar Data and Technology

International Deep-Sea Corals Workshop

Northeastern Coastal Ecosystems and Resources Workshop

Awards Shinn Wins 2002 Shoemaker Distinguished Achievement Award

Coastal and Marine Scientists Win 2002 Shoemaker Product Excellence Awards

Behrendt and Poag Elected AAAS Fellows

Normark Awarded Keen Medal

Staff & Center News A Tribute to Joe Newell

Marine Geophysics Pioneer Honored

Celebrating Careers of Five Retirees

Manheim Lectures on Trends in Scientific and Technological Innovation

Publications San Francisco Bay Earthquake Hazards

Effectivenes of Marine Reserves in Central California

Human Influence on Diatom Productivity and Sedimentation in Chesapeake Bay

Feb. / Mar. Publications List

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