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GEM panel participates in discussion with Office of Natural Resources Revenue

March 20, 2013

(Photo courtesy of Michele Motley)

Advisors and staff from the Global Energy Management Program recently collaborated with Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) for some strategic brainstorming. This joint discussion examined heretofore unexplored synergies between government and private industry. This event was a part of ONRR’s Mentoring/Collective Knowledge Panel discussion series, and GEM is the first outside entity to be invited to participate.

The panel included Don McClure, a GEM Advisory Council member and VP of Government and Stakeholder Relations at Encana; John “Jack” Mason, Director of Entrepreneurial Studies at Duquesne University as well as a GEM Instructor; and Jennifer Bredt, Development Manager at Renewable Energy Systems America (RESA) and a GEM Alumna. The panel facilitator was Joe Coleman, Program Analyst at the Department of the Interior’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue, and the recording was made available to all Department of the Interior employees across the country.

When the panel was asked if they had advice on how the government and private sector could better work together, Jennifer Bredt suggested an industry sabbatical. She said government officials could benefit from more exposure to the private side like she has. In 2004, Bredt began working for the Department of Interior as Assistant Secretary for the Indian Affairs’ Division of Energy and Mineral Development (DEMD) in Lakewood, CO. In the past four years that she has been with RES America, Bredt has assisted fellow developers with various solar, storage, and tribal development opportunities, and her primary area of focus is development of wind energy projects in the WECC region.

“Have people from government and private sector switch positions to get additional exposure,” she said. “There has to be some sort of mentor or a crossing.”

Bredt said communication is key.

“It is intimidating because they (private sector) don’t have all the answers and they are prospecting,” she said. “It would be nice if the government had a better understanding of where they are at if they are going to start the dialogue early. … We can start earlier but there has to be better expectations.”

Jack Mason also echoed how vitally important communication is during the discussion, and how it is covered in the course he teaches at the GEM program, Energy Asset and Production Management. One of his suggestions is to use several different forms of media to communicate.

“There are a lot of opportunities for miscommunication along the way,” he said. “Everyone is influenced by their own cultural bias.”

Mason previously headed a service company, and through his experiences, discovered the constructive nature of helping customers overcome hurdles. “If you deal with that problem effectively and promptly, the relationship after that occurrence is stronger than it was before the occurrence,” he said.

Should we have safety concerns regarding fracking?

Coleman asked the panel if they have any regulatory or safety concerns regarding the fracking and natural gas development. There is an estimated 100-year supply of natural gas in the United States, which is a far more abundant resource than previously imagined.
In the late 1990s, Texas businessman George Mitchell developed an affordable way to extract natural gas, the cleanest of the fossil fuels, which is locked up in shale rock and other geological formations by way of hydraulic fracturing. This “fracking” process involves injecting large amounts of water and chemicals deep underground, and, when done correctly, freshwater supplies are not contaminated.
The permeable rock is often 6,000 to 13,000 feet below the earth, said Don McClure, Vice President of Government & Stakeholder Relations & Legal of Encana Oil and Gas (USA) Inc.

Renewable energy breakthroughs

Mason was also asked about his mission to improve sustainable energy initiatives. For the past three years his focus has been on energy conservation. Although some projects that are designed to conserve less energy are expensive, he said there are other ways to chip in.“A lot of you can conserve and reduce energy consumption, and save money by doing things that simply have to do with behavioral changes,” he said.
Mason has more than 35 years of experience in the energy industry and has started three businesses from scratch, two of which he said were successful and one was not.
In his Asset Management course, Mason instructs his students to spend time analyzing risk. The first eight weeks are focused on conventional methods to deal with risk. They also talk about techniques on managing unknowns.

The GEM difference
Michele Motley, Graduate Advisor, and Sarah Derdowski, Associate Director of Operations, both from CU Denver’s GEM Program also provided information about GEM and answered questions about the program and class structure.

“The best part about our program is that we are not just one industry,” Derdowski said. “We have people from the department of interior, we have people from oil and gas, we have engineers and people from the renewable side. We’re putting all these people in the classroom and it turns out they don’t all agree.”

Panelist Jennifer Bredt, development manager at Renewable Energy Systems America and a GEM alumna, could speak to this. She gave an example of a time one of her classes got heated.

“We had a climate debate that I thought was going to end in fist fights,” she joked. “But, that’s the brilliance of the program. We don’t want a whole bunch of people who all agree on things to come together – that’s not a productive meeting. Education is about bringing people together and having discussion – that’s exactly what we are doing here. Everyone has different backgrounds and that’s key to our program and that’s why we don’t have specific just oil and gas classes, or just renewable or just finance classes because it’s important to create that dialogue.”

Derdowski also added that GEM’s Advisory Council is also diverse and examines the program’s curriculum each year to ensure that it’s diverse and current. Bredt added that diversity is not unknown to the GEM classrooms.

“It was so phenomenal as a student to have a professor fly from Saudi Arabia and talk about the culture there. To have the accounting professor talk about what it’s like to work in Columbia. To have my classmate be from Nigeria. … GEM provides a forum for this. I don’t think there needs to be a specific class on ethics or sustainability because that dialogue naturally happens with the students.”

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