Christopher Smith named Baker Institute Advisory Board Fellow in Energy Studies

Smith will research global energy poverty, energy resource development in developing nations and how regions are affected by shifts in energy-use patterns across the US

Christopher Smith, former assistant secretary for fossil energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, has been named the Baker Institute Advisory Board Fellow in Energy Studies at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, the institute announced today.


As assistant secretary from December 2014 to January 2017, Smith led the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy, including scientists and engineers working at 11 sites across the U.S. In this capacity, he oversaw the department’s fossil energy research and development program (coal, oil and natural gas), the National Energy Technology Laboratory and the natural gas regulatory process, including liquefied natural gas (LNG). He was also responsible for the U.S. Petroleum Reserves, the largest strategic petroleum stockpile in the world.

Smith’s appointment marks an expansion of the institute’s Center for Energy Studies (CES), which is ranked No. 2 among the world’s energy- and resource-policy think tanks, according to the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program’s 2016 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report. The center provides policymakers, corporate leaders and the public with high-quality, data-driven analysis of issues that influence energy markets. Smith will work with Kenneth Medlock, the James A. Baker III and Susan G. Baker Fellow in Energy and Resource Economics and senior director of CES.

“Chris will be working with us to address some of the most daunting energy-related issues of the day, and he brings a wealth of knowledge and a unique perspective,” Medlock said. “His interest in addressing energy poverty, fostering resource development to create a stable and sustainable platform for long-term economic growth, and his desire to understand how shifts in energy-use patterns can displace jobs in the near term and affect local communities are all products of his experiences in the private sector and at DOE. We are very excited Chris is joining the CES.”

At the institute, Smith will work on energy poverty and energy resource development in developing nations, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. He will also expand on his interests in carbon markets and energy transitions and how policy can address concerns of local communities adversely affected by shifts in energy-use patterns. This builds on previous work he spearheaded at the DOE, and it fits within the broad research aim of the CES to address the challenges facing global energy use and sustainability.

Smith joined the DOE in October 2009 and served as principal deputy assistant secretary for fossil energy and as deputy assistant secretary for oil and natural gas. During his tenure, he served as the designated federal official for the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, established by President Barack Obama to investigate the root causes of the Gulf oil spill.

Prior to his roles in federal government, Smith served in managerial and analytical positions in the private sector. Most recently he spent 11 years with Chevron and Texaco focused primarily on upstream business development and LNG trading, including three years negotiating production and transportation agreements in Bogotá, Colombia.

Smith began his career as an officer in the U.S. Army and served tours in Korea and Hawaii. He subsequently worked for Citibank and JPMorgan in New York City and London in the area of emerging markets and currency derivatives.

Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering management from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Cambridge University.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.