A daylong workshop, “Influencing Energy Policy in the Next Administration: A Workshop in Public Affairs and Lobbying,” brought senior executives from many of the partner energy firms associated with the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business Global Energy Management Institute (GEMI) together for a forum on influencing energy policy throughout the presidential election campaign and beyond.
The event featured Jim Rouse, a retired vice president for ExxonMobil Corporation who was headquartered in Washington, D.C., George Baker, a partner with William and Jensen, and U.S. Congressman Gene Green.
In a session early in the day about the nuts and bolts of lobbying, Rouse noted that there is no single path to the profession, and that many lobbyists, like him, come to the job by a circuitous route. For him, that meant working in sales, human resources and public relations at ExxonMobil.
Rouse began his talk by taking a quick informal survey of the audience, who were asked to come up with their gut response to the word, “lobbyist.” After this exercise produced uniformly negative responses like “sleazebag” and “big talker,” one audience member said, “I’m a lobbyist, so I constantly have to defend what I do for a living.”
Rouse, however, stressed the role of lobbyists as vital cogs in the way U.S. government operates, despite their much maligned portrayal in popular media.
“In eight years, nobody ever asked me to do something I’d be ashamed of,” he said. “Lobbying is nothing more than sales, selling a concept to a Congressman (or other decision-making figures in government).”
In his talk, Baker focused on the evolving energy policy positions of the presidential candidates. With Senators John McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama each trying to stake out positions amid concerns about climate change and $4 a gallon gasoline prices, the issue has become “an environmental piñata,” Baker said.
“Don’t expect profiles in courage from these three,” Baker said.
But he touched on aspects of their positions – McCain sees dependence on foreign oil as a national security issue, and is advocating a cut in federal subsidies to fund research on new technology, Baker said. Clinton has said she would institute national efficiency standards for utilities, now under state guidelines. Both she and Obama have come out in favor of an aggressive reduction of emissions, below 1990 levels, by 2050.
Congressman Gene Green (’71) addressed an evening gathering with a talk on “Legislative Priorities on Energy in the Next Congress.” Dean Arthur D. Warga also recognized Green as a Bauer College alumni and his wife Helen Albers Green, who graduated from the UH College of Education.
Stephen V. Arbogast, executive professor in Bauer’s Finance department and GEMI, took a lead role in organizing the event. Dr. Praveen Kumar, executive director of the Global Energy Management Institute, Texas Commerce Bank/Tennoco professor and chair of the Finance department, said that: “This type of workshop benefits Bauer and UH highly because it showcases GEMI’s potential to be a meeting ground for the decision-makers in the energy industry, to come together and discuss issues of central importance to the industry.”
By Julie Bonnin
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.
About the Bauer College of Business
The C.T. Bauer College of Business has been in operation for more than 60 years at the University of Houston main campus. Through its five academic departments, the college offers a full-range of undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees in business. The Bauer College is fully accredited by the AACSB International – the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. In August 2000, Houston business leader and philanthropist Charles T. (Ted) Bauer endowed the College of Business with a $40 million gift. In recognition of his generosity, the college was renamed the C.T. Bauer College of Business.