Jordan Blum, editorial director, Hart Energy: How does the energy sector solve its workforce challenges? We're here at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Energy Center Symposium in Austin to find out, joined by this Hart Energy LIVE Exclusive interview with Admiral William McRaven, the former chancellor of the University of Texas System. Thank you so much for joining us.
William McRaven, admiral, U.S. Navy: Yeah, my pleasure.
JB: So just to get right into it, I just wanted to get your take on just kind of how important UT, the Energy Center, higher education are as a whole for the industry's workforce challenges, and within energy in particular, kind of filling the great crew change gap that's on the way.
WM: Well, as Secretary Evans had mentioned earlier, we are in the middle of this renaissance, certainly in West Texas with fracking. And the fact of the matter is the United States has become energy independent over the last 15 years, and this is hugely important. But to your point about workforce issues, the more we are changing, the more we need a qualified workforce. We need engineers. We need men and women working in the field. We need scientists looking at the renewables. We need all of those. And so certainly the University of Texas, certainly here at Austin, but I would say across the state of Texas, we are seeing great schools from UT Austin to A&M, all the schools that provide engineering support, particularly petroleum engineering and these sorts of things, are critical to success. I think what the KBH Energy Center does is kind of bring together the thought leaders to begin to tackle these problems, to understand what exactly will the workforce look like? How do we go about training and educating the workforce so that we're ready for the next 15 or 20 years.
JB: One thing I wanted to ask too, is UT lands are often an overlooked, but critically important part of oil and gas production for Texas and the country as a whole. I mean, I just wanted to get your take on just the critical importance there for the country as a whole and UT revenues really.
WM: Well yeah, so I'm not sure who's overlooking UT lands, but they shouldn't be because it's 2.1 million acres out in West Texas. That was probably the best thing that could have happened to the University of Texas System and Texas A&M as the revenues from those lands, of course, help buy down the cost of education. So when you think about the workforce and those young men and women coming into the workforce, if they're coming into a University of Texas System school or a Texas A&M School, the cost of their education is driven down by support from the UT Lands.
But of course, it's also how UT Lands works with our energy partners out there in West Texas. And so all of this is critical to making sure that we continue to keep production levels up. Also, to make sure, and I will get to the part about as clean of energy as we can make it, one of the things that we looked at within the University of Texas System was making sure that all those people who were leasing land somewhere in that 2.1 million acres, were following the appropriate protocols to reduce greenhouse gases, to reduce flaring, to reduce those things that we know are not environmentally conscious. That's an important part of the effort that we put into it.
JB: I'm switching gears a little bit, but wanted to ask, with your military background, just with everything going on with the war in Ukraine and geopolitically, just how things, how everything is reshaping the energy sector globally and how that's impacting things in the U.S.?
WM: Well, certainly, as you saw Russia's invasion of Ukraine, you began to realize that the world needed to diversify their supply chains when it comes to energy. Certainly Europe in particular, the Germans were almost, maybe not a 100%, but largely dependent upon Russian oil from Nord Stream 1 and then Nord Stream 2 coming online. And the fact of the matter is you can't be dependent on any one country, particularly not an authoritarian government like Russia. But what's happened, of course, is because of that, if there's a silver lining there, Germany, but the EU more largely, found a way to begin to diversify, to look at other contracts. So because the United States was energy independent, we could provide additional natural gas, we could provide additional, across the fossil fuel spectrum, to the Europeans.
During the first year of the war, there was real concern that the EU might fracture because it was going to be a cold winter, they weren't going to have enough fuel to run the industries to keep people warm. When in fact, because we were able to shift and the western alliance was able to provide the Europeans the fuel they needed, they managed to make it through that winter. And I would offer probably stronger than before. Now, they've built the regasification plants, they've figured out a way to align the contracts. Their fuel supplies are up to about 90%, so they're clearly going to make it through this coming winter. And all of that has to do, not all of it, but a large part of it has to do with West Texas lands, with the state of Texas, with the workforce that is keeping the production up and so vastly important to the world.
JB: It's a great job bringing it full circle. Well, no, really, thank you so much for joining us here at the KBH Energy Center for this Hart Energy LIVE interview. To read and watch more, please visit us online at hartenergy.com.
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