Ex-Oil Exec at Harvard Presents Bold Energy Plan for Texas: More Oil

A powerful ex-oil industry executive has proposed a new energy plan for Texas, and it may not surprise you to learn that his plan involves oil. Lots and lots of oil.

Leonardo Maugeri used to be a top executive at Eni, a company that has the double honor of being Italy's biggest oil company, as well as just being Italy's biggest company.

Now, he has an important-sounding job at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (number of words in his job title: 11), where he serves as an associate on the school's Environment and Natural Resources Program, because who better than a former leader at multinational oil corporation to serve on an environment program?

Maugeri's latest report, published by the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, talks optimistically about Texas' capability to produce more oil.

When it comes to shale oil production, Maugeri claims that Texas is just getting started. He writes that the entire United States could produce 5 million barrels of shale oil per day by 2017, and that North Dakota and Texas could be capable of holding more than 100,000 working wells in North Dakota and Texas by 2030. The Dallas Business Journal reports that there are currently 10,000 wells in Texas and North Dakota.

"The combination of vast geologic supply of shale oil and low population density in these areas allows for intense, sustained production unique to the United States," Maugeri writes.

Sounds awesome. What could possibly go wrong? Oh yeah, global warming, air pollution and water pollution, three things that go unmentioned in the report.

We checked in with Mark Jacobson, a researcher at Stanford University who directs the school's Atmosphere/Energy Program. Jacobson joins the chorus of other climate scientists who say that shale oil production causes methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to be released into the atmosphere. (And there's plenty of research to back methane concerns up).

Last month, a report by the Australian Climate Commission urged restraint, warning that 80 percent of our fossil fuels must stay underground if we humans want to keep our climate from changing too much. That report comes after the International Energy Agency released similarly dire warnings last November.

If we have to leave 80 percent of our fossil fuels in the ground, then does that mean we'll have to cancel our binge drilling parties in Texas and North Dakota? Maybe. But Maugeri, the Harvard fellow, indicated in an editorial he wrote last year for the Wall Street Journal that oil is going through a tough time, too: "To make matters worse, articles and comments about any oil issue often tend to be negative."

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Amy Martyn
Contact: Amy Martyn