Harvey Yates, guest columnist

In August, John Geissman, professor emeritus, earth and planetary sciences, at the University of New Mexico, published an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal objecting to my proposal to drill exploratory wells in Valencia County.

His concerns were three: 1. The possibility of damaging the fresh water aquifer; 2. The need to thwart efforts (presumably, drilling for and producing oil and gas) which are “the root causes of the global climate catastrophe that is staring us in the face …” and; 3. That one needs to drill 10,000 feet or more “before closing in on any possible hydrocarbon source rock” in Valencia County.

I disagree with Professor Geissman on each point. Thousands of wells have been drilled in New Mexico. If the fresh water aquifers were often damaged, as is implied, you would hear about that repeatedly. As explained by the head of the Oil Conservation Commission at the July 15 Valencia County hearing, the regulatory commission imposes and enforces strict rules to protect fresh water aquifers.

What about the “global climate catastrophe that is staring us in the face?” It is more likely that a global catastrophe will arise because nations have too little fossil fuel production — this arising from the imposition of incoherent plans to restrict exploration and production and placing too much reliance on solar and wind energy.

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

Businesses are closing and too many families have to choose between heating their house or eating. Yet, both the UK and Europe have significant untapped hydrocarbon resources — untapped because leadership of those nations responded to messages like that delivered by Professor Geissman in his op-ed.

They elected to go “green,” elected to inhibit domestic fossil fuel production, including “fracking,” and then they relied on Russia to supply gas if they needed it. The problems will not be restricted to the European continent.

The New England grid operator (recently) warned of possible black outs this winter because of insufficient natural gas. And here in New Mexico, inane decisions by our regulatory commission have led to shutting down a San Juan Basin coal-fired electric plant. This while China and India bring on a new coal fired plant weekly.

While we watch dismal results come in this winter fostered by the climate religion, which many claim is “proven science,” let’s have some fun. Let’s bet, and let’s name the initial well.

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

I bet that we can find commercially producible hydrocarbons above 10,000 feet in Valencia County, and can do it in the first well.

When asked about the risks of finding producible hydrocarbons, I respond that the industry generally gives a well drilled in a rank wildcat basin a 10 percent chance of success, but that good geology improves those odds. I also have said that I believe within three wells we could find producible hydrocarbons; yet here I am suggesting we bet on the first well.

The well would be drilled on our property, and at a location of our choice — miles from any house. Professor Geissman should have no trouble funding his bet that we will drill a dry hole.

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

Naming the well: Let’s initially name the well the “Valencia County No. 1.” If the well is a dry hole, we will change its name to “Drilling Fool No. 1.” If the well is successful, the well will be known, not only as Valencia County’s first producing well, but as the “Academic Fool No. 1.”

Let’s have some fun!

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

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Harvey Yates, guest columnist