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Thursday, May 19, 2022 — Houston, TX

Baker Institute creates Center for Energy Studies

By Tina Ou     10/18/12 7:00pm

The Baker Institute for Public Policy established a Center for Energy Studies that will serve as an umbrella for energy and environmental studies, according to Senior Director for the Center for Energy Studies Kenneth Medlock. The center was created with the intention of engaging more broadly with other energy and environmental initiatives on campus, Medlock said. 

Baker Institute Founding Director and Ambassador Edward Djerejian said the Baker Institute is very excited in taking the energy program to another level. 

"As we approach the [Baker Institute's] 20th anniversary next year, we're looking at how we can consolidate and amplify some of the flagship programs that we have," Djerejian said. "Houston is the energy capital of the world, so it's only natural that one of the first flagships of the Baker Institute was energy policy."

The institute's plans for the center dovetail with the Energy and Environment Initiative, Provost George McLendon's initiative aimed at exploring all forms of energy, their effective use and responsible development, according to Medlock. 

As such, the Center for Energy Studies will encompass various existing programs as well as create new areas of focus. The center will address more domestic energy issues and environmental issues associated with domestic energy development. It will act as a funding vehicle as well as coordinate research for the institute, Medlock said. 

"The idea is that the center will be the coordinating vehicle for all these programs," Medlock said. 

Djerejian agreed that the center is growing in its scope, with areas of focus not only on geopolitics but also on environmental regulation policies affecting the energy sector, alternative energy, and shale oil and shale gas. 

Preparations for the opening of the center began in September 2012, according to Medlock, the James A. Baker III and Susan G. Baker Fellow in Energy and Resource Economics. 

Djerejian said there are plans to create other new centers along the lines of the Center for Energy Studies. 

Medlock said he encourages undergraduate students to apply for the intern programs that offer basic research opportunities. The center will be seeking faculty hires in areas such as energy environmental regulatory affairs, energy environmental science, global oil and international geopolitics. According to Medlock, however, the hiring may take a couple of years due to the need for endowment funding. 

Djerejian said the new center has been established in time to examine an important possibility of energy security in the Western Hemisphere. 

"If you look at the Western Hemisphere now, the pre-salt oil deposits found offshore [in] Brazil will make Brazil a major producer of energy," Djerejian said. "Argentina, Venezuela and Mexico are also major players. If you add the shale oil and shale gas reserves from North America, especially in the United States, and the tar sands reserves in Canada - for the first time, the Western Hemisphere can be energy-secure."

Djerejian said such events may cause shifts in the U.S.-Middle East policies. According to Djerejian, a more energy-secure Western Hemisphere will lead to less dependence on Middle East oil. 

"Something exciting is going to be happening, and our center is going to look at this in depth," Djerejian said. 

Brown College sophomore Nicole Chun said that as someone majoring in energy policy studies and minoring in water and energy sustainability, she is glad Rice is furthering its research in the energy field. 

"Even before this new energy center, the Baker Institute had been doing a great job with its Energy Forum," Chun said. "Energy policy research has always been a big part of the university and that is a major factor that drew me to Rice in the first place."

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