I’m sitting at the Galaxy Bar at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam waiting to board a plane back to Houston. I’ve been here all week attending the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE) annual meeting, and the more people I talk to, the more I feel like whatever weird “doldrums” this industry has entered are soon to end. Let’s face it -- $40 oil is better than $10 oil, and $70 oil is better than $40 oil. And as John Gibson of Paradigm announced during a press conference Tuesday, oil has now pushed through that $70 barrier. Other companies are similarly “cautiously optimistic.” A contractor that supplies electromagnetic surveys suddenly has a huge backlog of work after going through a very rough patch earlier this year. The seismic industry could potentially be facing another overcapacity issue like it experienced in the late 1990s, but John Greenway from PGS said that the newbuilds coming on the market are so technically superior to older vessels that retiring those antiques will not be a tough decision for the major contractors. Outgoing EAGE President Phil Christie, scientific advisor for Schlumberger Cambridge Research, said the show had attracted about 5,000 attendees, down about 800 from 2008. Considering that oil prices were probably $50/bbl higher last June than they are now, this does not seem like a significant drop. It could also partially be explained by the fact that the American Association of Petroleum Geologists had its annual meeting at the same time, forcing many of us to choose which show to attend. (If anyone managed to make it to both, I’d like to hear about it!) Generally speaking, I’d say the mood at the show was quite upbeat. Booths were busy, and technical sessions were often standing room only. Yes, there were the usual murmurs and lousy booth locations, etc. But generally speaking the exhibitors’ take was that attendance may have been a bit lower than last year, but the quality of the visitors to their booths was high. I would like to invite commentary about a couple of things: 1. Why, when oil dropped to $40/bbl, did everyone act as if the sky was falling? 2. Why, when oil dropped to $40/bbl, did oil companies completely pull back on their exploration spending? 3. Why do the contractors blame the oil companies for not spending any money while the oil companies can’t understand why the contractors are so upset? To me at least part of a recession is based on human perception and reaction. People get scared and stop spending money. This in turn causes the overall economy to tank. A few pundits out there have been preaching the gospel of going against the grain – spending more money in a lower-priced environment, firming up contracts when the contractors are desperate for business, etc. Overall, though, I think this kind of attitude is in the minority. I hope that shows like EAGE will get people talking to each other, thinking more positive thoughts – and spending more money. And if you think the oil industry is hurting, look at the publishing industry. Maybe that will cheer you up.