Rice taps McConnell to direct Energy and Environment Initiative

Former DOE assistant secretary for fossil energy will lead push for industry partnerships

Rice University has chosen former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy Charles McConnell to lead the university’s campuswide Energy and Environment Initiative in its mission to partner with the energy industry to develop sustainable technologies and practices for all types of energy.

“Rice is uniquely positioned to partner with global energy companies, especially those with a strong Houston presence,” said McConnell, a 35-year industry veteran who left the Department of Energy (DOE) in February after two years as the assistant secretary responsible for fossil fuels. “The energy business has changed more in the past five years than at any time I can recall. The market is demanding energy sources to meet growing global demand, and society is demanding more environmentally sustainable technologies and policies.

Charles McConnell

“This creates an ideal opportunity for Rice. With our strong Houston presence and our world-class faculty and institutes, we are uniquely positioned to help develop the transformational technologies, policies and practices for the energy industry of the future.

Rice launched the initiative in September 2012. The initiative focuses on the diverse issues and challenges associated with society’s reliance on hydrocarbons and on the transition to a future where alternative sources of energy are more broadly integrated into both the supply and delivery chains.

“Rice is strongly engaged in state-of-the-art energy research,” said Rice Provost George McLendon. “The new Energy and Environment Initiative will provide integrated leadership to tap Rice’s intellectual resources in energy policy, business, engineering, science and humanities.”

McConnell said his task as e2i executive director is to forge new public and private partnerships and to expand Rice’s existing relationships with companies like Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, GE, Total, Baker Hughes, Schlumberger and Apache.

At DOE, McConnell was responsible for the strategic policy leadership, budgets, project management, and research and development of DOE’s oil, natural gas, coal and advanced technologies programs. He was also responsible for the management and operations of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and for DOE’s national energy technologies laboratories.

Prior to his service at DOE, McConnell served as vice president of carbon management at Battelle Energy Technology in Columbus, Ohio, for two years, and he managed businesses at Praxair Inc. for 31 years, many of them in Houston. McConnell is a former member of the board of directors for both the Clean Carbon Foundation of Texas and the Gulf Coast Carbon Center. A member of the American Institute of Technology Chemical Engineers, he holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University and an MBA in finance from Cleveland State University.


About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.