Rice energy expert available for State of the Union


David Ruth

Rice energy expert available to discuss Obama energy message in State of the Union

HOUSTON – (Jan. 28, 2014) – Charles McConnell, executive director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative and former U.S. assistant secretary of energy for fossil energy in the Department of Energy (DOE), is available for media interviews about energy and environmental issues in reference to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech this evening.

Charles McConnell

There are several key energy issues the president could address.

U.S. oil and gas production:

“During the final three years of the Obama administration, we will see a continued increase in oil and gas activity,” McConnell said. “Domestic oil has risen to become more than 50 percent of our supply, but there will be pressure to export as much of this crude, because it is light and sweet and not suited to refining in North America. U.S. refineries are configured for heavy sour crudes; however, this sweet crude is well-suited for export to Europeean and Asian markets.

“Domestic gas will continue to be explored, and pressure to export it will also exist. In both cases the export and royalty-tax returns to the government will be hailed as job creators and help the balance of trade and jobs growth.”

Government lands and offshore policy:

“Government lands and offshore policy will not be affected dramatically as most of the new oil and gas is coming from private land holdings,” McConnell said. “To that effect, private industry will be very concerned about the federal involvement with states’ oil and gas policies and procedures – there is a recognition that the ‘business as usual’ in terms of regulatory requirements and practices in the industry has not matured for fracking in either the oil or gas space. Federal reach into states’ regulatory structure will cause uncertainty and can cause a slowing of investment and growth.”

Keystone pipeline:

“The Keystone pipeline will continue to be a political football game, and  I believe the administration will hold it as currency for approval to extract ‘considerations’ from the oil and gas community on regulatory issues,” McConnell said. “It is rather hard to imagine that more reliable and safe pipeline transportation, as well as commerce with our good neighbor Canada, can be viewed as anything but good for business and good for the environment.”

Coal-fired power plants and carbon storage:

“Coal-fired power plants were targeted to be affected by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New Source Performance Standards as the technology for carbon capture and storage (CCS) was ‘deemed’ by the EPA to be commercially and technically demonstrated. It has not – I testified recently in Washington on this very issue,” he said. “I believe the matter that even within the administration’s OMB and EPA not being aligned is likely to cause the issue to be ‘punted’ to the next administration, and the continued uncertainty around coal will require power generators to install natural gas as the only viable alternative, which I believe is the outcome the current administration wants anyway.”

Renewable energies:

“The DOE will continue to overinvest in wind, solar, renewables and batteries, in comparison to fossil fuels, and the budget requests will not align with the administration’s
‘all of the above’ rhetoric that has not been supported by the DOE budget to develop environmentally transformational technology for all our energy choices,” he said. “The House has had to consistently put back funding to the administration’s requests for oil and gas as well as coal over the past four years.”

Energy industry:

“The energy industry needs clear signals and certainty from the president and EPA for investment,” McConnell said. “Delaying is a decision – and a strategy – and it has played out on several key issues.” (See topics above.)

“The biggest wild card is what the energy industry calls the ‘EPA’s overreach,’ and it causes major concern for the industry regarding investment,” he said. “Regulatory uncertainty will affect the power industry and the oil and gas exploration community, and it will significantly impact the petrochemical industry. Long-term affordable energy supports global expansion by global companies here in the U.S. Jobs and economic growth through U.S. facilities investment are far more accretive to the U.S. GDP than simply exporting our natural resources. Without an enlightened business-based policy and without a vision for energy security, we weaken our global competitiveness and encourage investment overseas unnecessarily.

“The administration must provide clear signals to the market, and not simply signals  driven by environmental politics. The administration must invest in technology for a real ‘all of the above’ strategy. Sustainability is good business in combination with environmental responsibility. The real solution is in the development of transformative technology to enable that realization and not political debates or picking winners and losers in the energy mix.

“Our country should strive for a sustainable energy strategy,” he said. “We are blessed with an abundance of energy choices, and we must be driven to make the best economic choices to drive our competitiveness. We also must be environmentally responsible. Doing both is table stakes for our future – choices must be enabled through technology.

“Choosing one fuel and attempting to eliminate another is not a responsible strategy,” he said. “Fossil fuels will dominate the landscape in the U.S., and, more importantly, globally as the world’s energy demand will double in the next 40 years. All of our energy sources are not an option — they are a requirement. Fossil fuels will continue to be 85 percent of the world’s energy supply in 2050, and therefore, the technological investment to make use of these fuels environmentally sustainable is required and will be tremendously impactful.”

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.

McConnell is available for commentary before and after the State of the Union address, which will be at 8 p.m. CST Jan. 28. Rice University has a VideoLink ReadyCam TV interview studio capable of transmitting broadcast-quality standard-definition and high-definition video directly to all news media organizations around the world 24/7.

For more information, contact David Ruth, director of national media relations at Rice, at david@rice.edu or 713-348-6327.


McConnell: http://news.rice.edu/2013/09/03/rice-taps-mcconnell-to-direct-energy-and-environment-initiative-2.

Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative: http://e2i.rice.edu/home.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations on Twitter @RiceUNews.

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,708 undergraduates and 2,374 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review and No. 2 for “best value” among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to http://tinyurl.com/AboutRiceU.

About David Ruth

David Ruth is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.