Exclusive interview with Charles McConnell, Executive Director, Carbon Management and Energy Sustainability at University of Houston & Former Assistant Secretary of Energy
“We can pontificate about the energy transition and carbon reduction all we want,” says Charles Mcconnell, Executive Director, Carbon Management and Energy Sustainability at the University of Houston. “But if countries are short of energy, watch out!”
While there has been a lot of talk of the low carbon future, McConnell believes that fossil fuels will continue to play an essential role in helping the world meet its energy requirements. The key to enabling the Net Zero future will be to decarbonize operations and products, he says.
McConnell has decades of industry experience and served as Former Assistant Secretary of Energy, a politically appointed role to execute policy and operate the Fossil Energy Department. In this interview, he offers his perspectives on the challenges of the energy transition, what he sees as the way forward and why he believes altruism will come out in the wash in the coming years.
Diana Davis, Oil and Gas IQ: Climate change, reducing carbon emissions and the energy transition – these are topics that have been around for years, and this past year it feels like suddenly the oil and gas industry is paying some serious attention to them. From your perspective, how and why has the conversation shifted?
Charles McConnell: The topic has been around for many years, but the definition of what we’re discussing is all over the map. What does the energy transition really mean?
I think that now as people begin to get more familiar with the challenges that we have, there is a coming together in terms of the mission. We’re still not where we need to be, but the convergence is helpful.
From my perspective, our mission is to reduce CO2 and methane emissions. We need to move from there to evaluate the most effective, rapid, and creative ways to address the challenge of emissions reduction and energy sustainability.
Energy sustainability has three aspects: First, you must have the availability of reliable energy. Second, is it affordable? Is it cost competitive? Finally, once you’ve satisfied those two things, the third leg on the stool is environmental responsibility in terms of methane and CO2 emissions. This gets into a discussion about the whole value chain because emissions are not just from producing it but also from consuming it.
Energy sustainability doesn’t have a single recipe. If you look at it in different economies, you’ll find in some places many people don’t even have energy. The very availability of it or the reliability of it is in question.
In the developed world, we have the responsibility to meet the needs of our people, do it in an affordable manner, be environmentally responsible and create the technologies that enable that to occur so that emissions can be globally mitigated.
Diana Davis, Oil and Gas IQ: You think we’re converging on the mission? How do you see that playing out?
Charles McConnell: The conversation is evolving. It has gone from a conversation about government regulation to one about market and investment. Investors and the marketplace are now demanding decarbonization.
But how bad do they want it? As you continue to move down this continuum and challenge…
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Download your free copy of the interview here, where Charles offers his honest perspectives on the challenges of energy transition and:
- What he sees as the biggest challenges in moving towards a low carbon economy
- His thoughts on Hydrogen as a fossil fuel alternative
- How oil and gas companies should respond to the demand to decarbonize their operations
- How the oil and gas industry will look in 30 years