It passed some time since this year's CERAWeek 2014 kicked off in Houston, Texas from March third to seventh. This conference is, in my opinion, one of the best energy conferences I have attended (and I attended many over the last couple of years.) It focuses annually on the latest issues in the energy industry, predominantly natural gas, renewable energy, electric power and technology and has one of the largest worldwide energy executive audiences that I know represented -- too many to name, but household names in the energy and worldwide government sector.
The three key points discussed were the future for energy, the biggest surprises in the energy space and other key messages for this year. The week rolled on with essential discussions on geopolitical challenges, rising fuel costs, the rivalry in the transportation and power industry, the "shale gas" revolution and its repercussions on the global energy industry, GDP growth, cheap energy alternatives and finally, the effect of the new energy sector in Mexico.
One of the first interesting discussions was the topic "What's Ahead of Energy." In the light of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and increasing global apathy towards nuclear power, focus has definitely shifted in many world economies to harnessing power from alternative energy sources that are involving less risk. Interestingly it seems that alternatives that we are considering "not good enough" from an environmental prospective, other countries utilize now more. That optimizes our carbon footprint as a country, but not if you consider it on a global level. To me it shows one more time that it is not what we do or what Europe does, but rather what we as the leaders in this field develop as well as share with other countries.
For me personally the energy security discussions as well as on the geopolitical situation in the Middle East, East Asia and Ukraine was a highlight of the conference, as decision makers such as James Clad former Asia Pacific Affairs Assistant Secretary of Defense, Energy Expert Daniel Yergin or the CEO of ENI Paolo Scaroni discussed openly there concerns as well as their solution for such energy crisis. I think that the leaders of Europe realized that they have to develop alternative energy suppliers, who are not Russian decent. I feel that the Ukraine crisis will lead Europe to act quicker and with more unification towards a common European Energy Policy that can lower the current risk profile Europe is exposed. One example could be that not each country is buying its energy from third parties, as for example Russian-owned companies, but rather that the European Union will buy as a whole and therefore strengthen its bargaining power. Similar goes with pipelines that connect to Europe.
"The Next Stage of the North American Energy Renaissance" was yet another effective discussion by the panelists, in my view. Unconventional modes of gas and oil development were discussed including the shortage of skilled labor in the energy industry. This is very important, as this shortage will be a big topic in the next year especially in places like Louisiana and Texas. One key area that I found interesting would be the utilization of natural resources such water. In my opinion this area will see a great growth rate as better utilization of water during onshore drilling will not only safe tremendous costs for the operator, but also it is a next step crucial step towards safe and responsible energy production methods.
In the light of the U.S. government policies, Ben Bernanke, the former chairman of U.S. Federal Reserve System, delivered his closing comments on for this year's conference. He stressed on the importance of giving more independence to the Federal Reserve System; he cited the recent Great Recession of 2008. If the Fed was allowed more independence, the negative ramifications of the recession could be substantially alleviated, as per Bernanke. I agree with his view and would add that just as the Fed's reduced autonomy to make decisions, there are other governmental departments related to the oil and gas industry, which often choke due to lack of autonomy. We in this country have the advantage to be the world leader in one of the most important industries in the world and therefore we need agencies that have the authority to work hand in hand with the industry experts to challenge the status quo in a safely and professional way. Kudos to the organizers as well as great to see such conferences being utilized as platforms for discussions between worldwide industry leaders, government and non profit agencies.