CERAWeek conference to focus on energy policy

Energy policy will dominate the election-year program at the annual CERAWeek energy conference, which begins Monday at the Hilton Americas-Houston downtown.

The conference will tackle issues including the plummeting price of natural gas, tension in the Persian Gulf and the revival of U.S. oil production, in a dense weeklong schedule of speeches and panel discussions featuring energy executives and political leaders.

Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman will take the stage Wednesday to explain the Obama administration’s energy policies, according to Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS CERA, which organizes the conference.

President Barack Obama touted an “all-of-the-above” approach to developing domestic energy resources in his State of the Union address in January but has drawn ire from some oil and gas executives who say his policies stifle development of fossil fuels.

Yergin said the conference includes sessions that explore the effect of domestic energy production on the economy, managing environmental concerns and the role of renewable energy.

“There is not an agenda. It’s to illuminate the issues and how policy will evolve given that we are in a political year,” Yergin said. “There are a lot of points of view. It encourages debate.”

Tuesday’s sessions focus on oil and Wednesday’s on natural gas. Thursday takes on electric power, including nuclear and renewables.

The CERAWeek conference attracts 2,200 attendees from across the energy world, including policymakers, business executives and financial leaders.

Speakers on the bill include CEOs Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil, Peter Voser of Royal Dutch Shell and Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric; Govs. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and John Kasich of Ohio; former Govs. Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Haley Barbour of Mississippi; and Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Yergin noted that the conference is taking place in a different environment than last year’s, with high fuel prices and tensions with Iran near the top of the national agenda.

“Things in the world oil market are more tense, and the market is rather tight,” Yergin said. “I think the political discourse on energy in this country has changed.”

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