A year ago at this time, Houston was hit, and hard, by a100-year flood. Some 36 inches of rain fell over four days. That last night, it seemed it would never stop. This year, a flood of a different sort threatens to swamp the entire energy industry. Negative headlines about incompetent or fraudulent accountants, analysts, power traders and energy merchants just keep engulfing us. Will this rain ever end? It is time for a change in the weather. We need to call a summit of industry leaders. It is time for as much to be spent on our image and educating the public as is spent on lobbying. I challenge the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, all majors and independents, to stop bickering and going their separate ways. Let's figure out what the right message is and deliver it to the American people. It's not about "spin;" it's about the truth. We need to come up with specifically targeted programs and tactics that point out the benefits modern energy provides. Teacher training. Elementary and high school education programs. A spot on "Sesame Street?" Remember this TV spot: "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs." Let's film hundreds of commuters walking down the freeway, briefcases and coffee cups in hand. "You need to go to work to make a living. This is your commute. This is your commute without gasoline." Let's show a geologist and engineer working in some gee-whiz visualization room or offshore platform to find energy. Then let's show them after work, gathering up the kids to go fishing in a pristine, scenic place-one not despoiled by hundreds of people using primitive and polluting forms of energy, as they are forced to do in poor countries that don't have modern energy sources yet. It is time for education. "I don't think people make the connection between what is in their cars and what you guys do out there on the land. They only listen to the environmentalists who say, 'If you drill out there, you ruin the land.'" So said the new director of the Minerals Management Service, Johnnie Burton, when she spoke to a Houston Society of Petroleum Engineers meeting dedicated to petroleum leadership. It is time for the facts to be known. "I find it astonishing that those who ought to know better say $25 oil is too high. We need to get real about the price oil ought to sell for to make sure we have enough," said Matt Simmons of Simmons & Co. International at this year's Offshore Technology Conference. "And anybody who thinks Russia will displace our need for Saudi oil needs to go back to the drawing board." XTO Energy's chairman and chief executive officer, Bob Simpson, and vice chair and president, Steve Palko, summed it up in the company's annual report. "In 2001, a drilling boom put 1,068 rigs to work looking for new gas reserves. Experts predicted domestic gas production growth of 2% to 4% for the year, yet the tally of reported statistics reveals that production is flat year-over-year, despite these heroic efforts. New wells found reserves, but cumulatively the nation's underlying production decline overwhelmed any production gains. "With the current gas rig count just over 600 we see gas supply diminishing. We believe this underscores a long-term change in gas market dynamics: instead of being readily available, domestic gas is scarce. A sustained higher price is needed to meet projected growth for the nation." Finally, it is time for a truce between energy advocates and environmentalists. As the intensity of the arguments has grown, facts get lost. Did you know Shell claims that after producing 2 billion barrels of oil from the Gulf of Mexico, it has spilled less than 100 of those barrels? Did you know that agricultural runoff from farms up river from the Mississippi's mouth contributed more pollution to the Gulf than does the energy industry? What can we do together to make the economy continue forward while we protect the environment? We ought to be smart enough to figure this out. One bit of good news: Hart Publications is proud to announce that one of our own is moving to government, where we know he'll try to make a difference. Jack Belcher, energy columnist and deputy director of government affairs for Hart/IRI Fuels Information Services, is moving to a prestigious job in the U.S. Congress. Jack, a native Texan who was based in our Potomac, Maryland, office, has been named majority staff director of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. As such he will help the chair, Wyoming Rep. Barbara Cubin, with daily scheduling, hearings, agendas and choosing witnesses. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over oil, gas and coal development on federal lands, the offshore and Alaska. Start lining up your expert testimony now. And best of luck, Jack.