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The George W. Bush Institute Launches Natural Gas Nation

Hopefully Washington policymakers will listen to—and learn from—Dallas’ entrepreneurial spirit and fresh thinking on issues surrounding natural gas.
photography by Joshua Martin

One day late last summer, former President George W. Bush was sitting in his Preston Center office talking about possible initiatives for his George W. Bush Institute with James Glassman, the institute’s executive director. Bush suggested to Glassman—a longtime journalist and former official in the Bush administration—that the topic of natural gas might be a good fit for the fledgling institute.

A little later, sometime during the inaugural football game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Randy Foutch, CEO of Oklahoma-based Laredo Petroleum, suggested to Glassman a similar conference about natural gas. The die was cast and, soon afterward—according to Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at SMU’s Cox School of Business— officials at Maguire met with Glassman to craft a plan and iron out the details.

The result is a summit called Natural Gas Nation, scheduled for March 25 at the Bush institute, which is part of the Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University. The goal of the one-day event, co-sponsored by the Maguire institute, is to discuss natural-gas opportunities and challenges “beyond the sound bites,” Bullock says. In-depth, independent analysis of the claims and controversies surrounding natural gas—its lower-carbon properties, price volatility, and contributions to national security and economic growth—will be provided. Participants will address the current debate over gas-drilling practices, as well as the likelihood of expanding the role of natural gas on the power grid and in the transportation sector.

Bush himself will kick off the conference with opening remarks. Energy guru Daniel Yergin of Cambridge Energy Research Associates will deliver the keynote. Oil and gas expert James Smith of SMU Cox will cover tax and regulatory issues, and former CIA director James Woolsey will talk about energy security. Industry veteran David Biegler, chief executive of Southcross Energy, will discuss infrastructure and supply, and officials from New York and Pennsylvania will address complex policy issues surrounding the Marcellus Shale mega-play there. Representatives from Pioneer Natural Resources, ExxonMobil, and Atmos Energy are among an estimated 300 that are expected to attend as well.

So, what is Glassman’s fondest hope for the summit? That when it comes to the topic of natural gas, he says, Washington policymakers will listen to, and learn from, Dallas’ entrepreneurial spirit and fresh thinking.