Fall DLS Kicks Off With Discussion on Energy Transformation

Published on September 26, 2011

Industry Experts Yeates and Hall Say Education,
Information is Essential for Changes in Energy

Yeates, who teaches the law course “Essentials of Oil and Gas Shale Development” at the UH Law Center, gave the audience in Cemo Hall a brief history on oil drilling.

Sometimes called an “energy revolution” or an “energy renaissance,” the development of hydraulic fracturing and the discovery of major gas shales around the globe has raised both hopes and fears for the future.

The first Distinguished Leaders Series of the fall semester, presented by AGL Resources and held on Sept. 19 at the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, brought in two experts in the subject of oil and shale gas development — J. Lanier Yeates, an adjunct professor at the UH Law Center, and New Orleans attorney Keith B. Hall, who focuses his practice on oil and gas law and environmental law.

“This topic involves all of us in the industry and also the observers of the industry,” said Yeates, who also practices law, representing producers and other participants in the energy industry.

“This is a major concern,” he added. “We must get this right. Whether you are an energy industry advocate or opponent, I believe we need to keep this major concern in center lens.”

The issue, Yeates said, reaches far beyond those directly involved in the energy industry.

“In America, we consume 135 billion gallons of gasoline every year,” he said. “Everybody that flips on a light switch, everybody that uses cosmetics, everybody that is involved in petrochemicals; it’s not us and them, it’s everybody who needs to get this right.”

These developments in the energy industry are ushering in a ‘transformative era’ for the country, Hall said, with the potential to transform the economy and create new jobs.

“This could dramatically decrease our dependence on oil and gas imported from abroad, which will help the economy, help our national security and allow us to displace some of the use of coal,” he said.

“I am very excited for what lies in store for the future of the oil and gas industry. The shale renaissance would not have been imaginable a few years ago. It’s all thanks to the combination of drilling and hydraulic fracturing making it economical to drill,” he added.

Hall, a member of Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann L.L.C. in New Orleans, Louisiana, broke down the top 11 legal concerns involving oil and natural gas drilling.

Often called fracking, the process of hydraulic fracturing allows producers to safely recover natural gas and oil from deep shale formations. The practice has become a source of debate from opponents, who cite possible environmental damages, such as water contamination.

Both speakers asserted that natural gas is the cleanest burning of the fossil fuels, with the process of fracking significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions. “Evidence is showing that hydraulic is a very safe process,” Hall said.

“Nothing since Spindletop, which ushered in the era of liquid fuels, has produced the transformative effect on our national energy scene as has the revolutionary impact of oil and gas shale development,” Yeates added. “There is a huge demand for natural gas now all over the world and the reserves are here in the United States.”

Education is the most important factor in this transformative period of the energy industry, Yeates said.

“The students at this university are getting prepared,” he added. “They are going to have the knowledge, they are going to understand the process, and they are going to develop the new techniques.”

The next Distinguished Leaders Series event will be held on Nov. 7, with a reception in the lobby of Cemo Hall at 5 p.m. followed by a discussion on “Natural Gas in the Green Space” at 6 p.m. in Stubblefield Auditorium.

By Ryan Tang