The 10th Annual Energy Symposium—Energy Law Currents: From the Ground Up—organized by the TAMU Law Program in Natural Resources Systems, highlighted many pressing issues in energy law. Speakers discussed topics such as clean energy technology, the hydrocarbon industry’s relationship with local communities, and electricity governance. The symposium also featured valuable advice for students interested in a career in energy law.
One Thursday afternoon panel focused on oil and gas company interactions with local communities. Kristen van de Biezenbos, Assistant Professor at the University of Calgary, highlighted communities and conflicts in British Columbia’s natural gas field. Biezenbos explained that due to decreasing demand for Canadian natural gas in the United States, Canadian natural gas producers in the Alberta oil sands have needed to search for new markets. One solution, a pipeline through British Columbia to transport natural gas to Asia, has proved problematic by causing conflicts between Canada’s provincial governments and indigenous peoples. This Canadian problem underscores the increasing global importance of social licenses and public approval of extractive corporations in the energy industry.
Friday began with a panel on Electricity Governance in Transition. Panelist Uma Outka, Professor at University of Kansas School of Law, discussed the frequent misapplication of the “100% Renewable” label in commercial goods production. Fellow panelist Jonas Monast, Assistant Professor at University of North Carolina School of Law, presented on the debate of the proper role competition between firms should play in advancing to goals we want from the electricity sector.
Friday’s keynote speaker, Gerry Borghesi, a strategic planning officer with Exxon Mobil, focused on large energy producers’ response to climate change. Although he expects the heavy transportation sector to continue to rely on oil and gas for the conceivable future, Borghesi identified some potential actions that large energy producers may take to reduce emissions, including: better electrical distribution networks, advancements in technology, and possibilities for hydroelectricity. Borghesi also discussed the challenges associated with meeting massively increasing demands for affordable and reliable energy in an environmentally conscientious way.
The symposium concluded with a helpful panel designed to inform students about careers in energy law. The panel featured: Moderator Wesley Lloyd, Of Counsel for Freeman Mills, PC; Nick Hofmann, Associate General Counsel for Atmos Energy Corporation; Kathryn Malmgren, Senior Director at Oncor; Cody Miller, Co-CEO and General Counsel for Dale Operating Company; Matt Wolcott, Of Counsel for Freeman Mills PC; and Emily Statton Smith, Senior Legal Counsel for Pioneer Natural Resources. In addition to offering perspectives on career opportunities in the energy sector, the attorneys emphasized networking strategies, including attending CLE events and finding meaningful talking points and connections with professionals whose careers appeal to you.