A New Status Quo: Hydrocarbon Dependency vs. Sustainable Policy and Investment

Robert Cavnar, Energy Industry Executive

Friday, October 10, 2014, 3:30pm

Spanos Auditorium

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series.

In 2010, our national dependence on hydrocarbons came into shocking view after BP’s Macondo well blew out in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20. During the time the well spewed millions of barrels of oil into the water, and until it was shut in on July 15, the nation was locked onto its televisions screens watching the out of control well in 5,000 feet of water.  Those who had never heard of deepwater drilling started asking questions, and our utter lack of a national energy policy was exposed for all to see.  However, after the well was shut-in and the video feeds were removed from national news, our elected leaders allowed complacency to return, and we all went back to business as usual.

Our hydrocarbon-dependent economic model is not sustainable, and threatens our climate, becoming a more urgent challenge each year. Every American who drives a car, rides on mass transit, uses electricity, and indeed participates in any part of our economy, adds to the problem. Since elected leaders shirk their responsibility to actually lead, changing our economy to a more sustainable and responsible model is up to us as Americans. How we generate and use energy is highly complex; add that complexity to billions of dollars of profits at stake, and our energy riddle becomes virtually unsolvable and status quo virtually assured.

Making the energy segment of our economy more sustainable requires innovation, an adaptive regulatory environment, and market incentivized solutions that drive businesses toward creative, sustainable strategies. Successful investing and a clean environment are not mutually exclusive. These are the challenges that must be confronted to take the US into the 21st century and beyond.

About the Speaker

Robert L. Cavnar is a 30-plus year veteran of the oil and gas industry with deep experience in business start-ups, turn-arounds, and management of oil and gas companies, following a personal commitment to corporate responsibility, environmental leadership, and safe operations. He has written extensively on global and national energy policy, and was named by Newsweek as “Trending Up” in its Who Can You Trust, Oil Spill Edition series in June 2010. Mr. Cavnar is author of Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout, a behind-the-scenes investigative look at the worst oil well accident in US history, taking readers inside the disaster, exposing the decisions leading up to the blowout and the immediate aftermath. Disaster on the Horizon was recognized with the Silver Award from ForeWord Reviews for Book of the Year 2010 in the Environment category.

Mr. Cavnar’s business career has included senior leadership positions in both public and private companies. Most recently, he was Chief Executive Officer of Luca Technologies Inc., a clean energy company that uses biotechnology to create and sustainably produce natural gas, based in Golden, Colorado. Prior to joining Luca, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of Milagro Exploration, a large, privately held oil and gas exploration firm based in Houston, Texas with operations along the Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi Gulf Coast. Under Mr. Cavnar, Milagro grew to 250 Bcfe of proved oil and gas reserves and over 800 active wells. Prior to Milagro, he served as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mission Resources until August of 2005 when it was successfully merged with a larger energy company. During his tenure at Mission, Mr. Cavnar led the recovery of the company’s financial strength and prominence within the independent oil and gas industry. Prior to Mission, Mr. Cavnar held management positions in both large and small companies, specializing in restructurings, turn-arounds, and mergers. He spent his early career in the oil field gaining operations experience by working on drilling rigs, pipelines, and in gas processing plants.

Mr. Cavnar holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Southern Methodist University, a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Michigan University, and completed the Program for Management Development at the Harvard Business School.

Mr. Cavnar is the retired chairman emeritus of the board of the Houston Grand Opera, is on the board of the Alley Theatre, and is co-founder of Recipe for Success Foundation, dedicated to fighting childhood obesity.

For more information, contact Haley Tucker at haley.tucker@dartmouth.edu.