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Position Statement

GSA: Science, Stewardship, Service


Role of Government in Mineral and Energy Resources Research

Adopted October 2008; revised April 2011, May 2016

Position Statement
The Geological Society of America (GSA) strongly advocates that sound scientific knowledge guide public decisions about the exploration, exploitation, and stewardship of finite energy and mineral resources. Sustaining and enhancing that knowledge requires more public investment in energy and mineral resource research, education, and stewardship.

GSA recognizes the essential role of government in conducting and supporting research that contributes to (1) developing a steady, sustainable mineral and energy supply for a resilient society; (2) developing renewable energy resources, recycling, resource substitution, and strategies to increase efficiency and conservation; (3) promoting sound mineral and energy policies through enhanced assessment of mineral and energy resources and the environmental implications of their use; and (4) enhancing public awareness of mineral and energy resource issues.


Economic prosperity and societal well-being require a safe and reliable supply of energy and mineral resources. Currently, global production of most non‐renewable energy and mineral resources (e.g., iron, copper, and coal) is at or near all‐time historic highs. Some geologic resources, such as non‐metals (i.e., crushed stone, sand, and gravel), are widespread, and supplies lie near areas of use. In contrast, most metals and energy resources are relatively rare, and deposits lie far away from consuming regions. The public role (governmental agencies, policy and planning bodies) in identifying and assessing energy and mineral resources is crucial in order to improve long‐term planning and avoid unforeseen resource shortages.

Non‐renewable resource/energy development and use increasingly have profound environmental and social implications. Increased efficiency and conservation, substitution of renewable resources, and recycling may help mitigate some impacts of the looming non‐renewable resource/energy shortages by reducing demand. Nonetheless, with a growing population, accelerating industrialization, and improving standards of living in many parts of the world, global demand for most energy and mineral resources is at an all‐time high and will inevitably increase in the future.

Public Policy Aspects of the Role of Government in Energy and Mineral Resources

Sound evaluation of potential costs, benefits, and consequences associated with the extraction and use of mineral and energy resources requires a holistic approach, considering all related factors. Government agencies possess the broad perspectives required to develop sound public policies. Knowledge of the impacts of fossil fuels and conventional nuclear power is widespread, but understanding the impacts of newer alternative energy sources is just beginning. For example,

Development of adequate sources of alternative energy will take decades. Better understanding of the science of energy and mineral resources and impacts of their use can improve decisions addressing such issues as adequate supplies for a sustainable, resilient society; land‐use conflicts; and potential environmental consequences of extraction and consumption. The geologic knowledge required for effective decision‐making includes (1) the location and extent of present and possible future resources, (2) the geological processes that formed and concentrated them, (3) models to guide exploration for undiscovered resources, and (4) the technological needs and environmental effects of their extraction and use at local, regional, and global scales.

The application of the skills and knowledge of geologists is essential for informed discussions about wide-ranging issues related to energy and mineral resources. These issues include

Particularly, federal, tribal, state, and provincial governmental agencies need qualified geologists to fulfill their missions as stewards of the land and its natural resources. Beyond the need for trained specialists, earth-science education in secondary schools and higher education institutions is essential in order to develop a broad public appreciation of the relevant geologic issues and support for sound public policy.

Governments have well‐established roles and responsibilities regarding mineral and energy resources research. For example, in the United States, several federal agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, and Labor, and the Environmental Protection Agency, have important programs. Government supports energy and mineral resource research and development as a public benefit; industry funds research associated with its business interests; and scientific funding agencies (e.g., U.S. National Science Foundation, National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología of Mexico) support development of new knowledge from basic research in academic institutions.


GSA recommends increased public investments and public‐private partnerships to improve our understanding of mineral and energy resources and to support programs for renewable energy resources, energy efficiency, and resource recycling.


 Opportunities for GSA and GSA Members to Help Implement Recommendations

To facilitate implementation of the goals of this Position Statement, the Geological Society of America recommends that its members:

The Geological Society of America can


Position Statements adopted by GSA Council may be used freely in their entirety by members in public policy discussions on the scientific issues to which they pertain.

About the Geological Society of America

The Geological Society of America, founded in 1888, is a scientific society with over 26,000 members from academia, government, and industry in 115 countries. Through its meetings, publications, and programs, GSA advances the geosciences, enhances the professional growth of its members, and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. GSA encourages cooperative research among Earth, life, planetary, and social scientists, fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues, and supports all levels of earth-science education. Inquiries about the GSA or this position statement should be directed to GSA’s Director for Geoscience Policy, Kasey S. White, at +1‐202‐669‐0466 or .

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