Thursday, February 28, 2008

Business & Climate Change Conference

Yesterday I attended this conference sponsored by The British Consulate General of Houston, The Climate Group, and Shell Oil Company. I was there for almost 12 hours – ok, the last hour or so was a rather well catered reception – and picked up enough information to fill the blog for weeks. This will take some time to organize, however, so this is just an introduction.

The venue was the Federal Reserve's very impressive Houston building, which is even more impressive when one considers that this is just a branch of the 11th district, headquartered in Dallas. Security was strict; rather like an airport except that we did not have to take off our shoes and I had the impression that the guards actually knew what they were doing. No photography allowed. The building houses the Fed’s largest vault. There is a collection of historical bank notes on display in the lobby, as well as a gold bar with an on-line electronic display of its current value. With recent increases in the price of gold, yesterday the bar (about the size of a brick) was worth $383,549. As one might imagine, there was considerable criticism of the Bush administration during the conference, and it is at least nice to know we live in a country where you can do this in a federal building without getting arrested!

Yesterday’s event was relatively small, allowing plenty of interaction with the speakers, who included the British Consul, Paul Lynch, and Rick Lazio of JPMorgan Chase and a four-term congressman who ran against Clinton for the senate in 2000. The keynote speech was given by John Hofmeister, President of Shell Oil Company, and was curiously off-topic. His concern seems to be reliance on foreign oil rather than climate change, and his solutions have to do with more domestic conventional and unconventional oil and gas development. This was not received well by any delegate I spoke to, one saying he thought Hofmeister had come to the wrong conference. There was however a more encouraging presentation from Bill Spence, Vice President of Shell International Renewables. Overall, the conference was very interesting and very optimistic about our ability to deal with climate change. Much more to follow.

Today the action moves on to the Houston’s Presidential Summit on America’s Energy Future ( organized by the greater Houston Partnership. All presidential hopefuls were invited, but apparently only Senator Clinton has so far accepted. (And as I listen to the radio this morning it seems she is in Ohio so it is not clear she will show up.) I am unable to attend anyway, but I am not sure I would want to; they advise arriving 2 hours early because of security. This will also be a much bigger event than yesterday's rather intimate one.

No comments: