From the Editor - April 2020

More than ever, let us help each other!

From the Editor: Fang Lin

Fellow HGS members:

The past month has been disruptive for many of us. We witnessed the Corona virus outbreak go from an endemic to a pandemic as the World Health Organization announced on March 11, 2020. We saw a surge in the number of people who were infected and diagnosed as COVID-19 positive in this country as well as in many other countries. As of March 20, 2020, the total number of confirmed cases has surpassed 15,000 in the United States with 201 deaths according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each of the 50 states reported confirmed cases, with more than 100 cases in Texas. Many schools, universities, private business and publicly traded companies have closed their doors in response to the outbreak. Social distancing and working from home are becoming the new mode. In the past few weeks, we also saw the stock markets melt multiple times as the fear of the future economy deepened. Global oil prices almost took a free fall, as the price of WTI crude plummeted to less than $20/barrel as of Friday, March 20. Who had foreseen all this coming last month? I certainly did not.

In the middle of this seemingly chaotic period, more than ever, we need to help each other. First and foremost, please take care for the safety and health of ourselves and our loved ones. COVID-19 is not a hoax. Thousands of people died because of it, many people are still suffering from it in hospitals, or not even being able to get into a hospital. Just yesterday, sad news came that someone I know lost his fight with the virus. It was heartbreaking reading the letter from his family on his final moments. Please, take it seriously, for ourselves and others. On the other hand, I was very pleased to hear some local grocery stores have offered “senior hours” for our senior citizens to go shopping before the crowds hit the stores. Beyond that, I think those of us who are younger or physically stronger, can also help our neighbors and friends by checking on them, ordering stuff for them and running errands for them. After all, as my mother used to tell me when I was little, “We all will get old one day”.

In addition, many American workers and families are undergoing tremendous mental and financial stress currently. If we can, please try to help each other and treat each other with respect and empathy. Donating to help fight the disease, giving the extra face masks to somebody who really needs them, leaving a pack of bottled water or toilet paper to the next customer, tipping our delivering people nicely, continuing to pay our lawn services, being mindful about our social behavior in public places, or simply staying at home unless we absolutely need to go out. There are so many things that we can do to help each other and help us stay a civilized community. Remember, this is a virus, it cannot recognize who we are, rich or poor, having a social rank or not, we are all the same in its eyes in general. Let’s help each other and fight against it together.

Besides staying safe and healthy, there is also a lot of concern about job security nowadays, particularly among oil and gas workers. After all, the American unemployment rate has skyrocketed in the past month according to news reports. We also have heard that one major oil service company has offered furlough to thousands of their Houston-based employees. Many oil and gas executives admitted that significant parts of the business are neither profitable nor sustainable at the current oil price. So how long will the current low oil price last? I believe this is a question on many people’s minds right now. I wish somebody could tell me the answer, but I’m afraid no one can. As somebody who has been through the last oil-downturn, if I have learned anything, it is to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. It’s something easy to say, but hard to do. Maybe in human nature we tend to procrastinate – we delay mental and tactical preparations for things we wish not to happen. On the upside, the energy industry is an indispensable pivotal industry of modern society. At least in 5-10 years no alternative energy can completely replace fossil fuels and provide equitable energy density and affordability. As long as the industry continues to exist, it will need skilled workers. Let’s be honest, some companies and workers may not survive this downturn, depending on how long it takes for oil price to rebound. However, I would say, as geoscientists we are multi-talented individuals. We have many skills that can be applied to feed ourselves and our families if we need to. For now, let’s do our best at what we do, help each other in any means we can.  Let us hope that we will land upright after the turmoil.

Let’s look out for each other, help each other. Together we will sail out of the mist.