Podcast Number One – Idaho Professor Jay O’Laughlin

Today we launched a podcast to go along with the Natural Gas 102 blog.  For the first episode, I took a few minutes to review the natural gas news for the week and then I interviewed a professor from Idaho to discuss the state’s recent foray into the natural gas business.

Listen to the Podcast:


News Recap for The Week of October 6, 2014:

  • Monday 
    • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sought to downplay environmental and health risks from fracking.
    • The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released data showing hydropower lost in California because of drought is being replaced by natural gas generation.
  • Tuesday
    • The Eagle Ford could be hurt by a listing of the Spot-Tailed Earless Lizard.
    • The EIA says natural gas will lower energy bills this winter.
    • Natural gas pipeline exports are expected to increase to Mexico.
  • Wednesday
    • The New York Times sounds friendly to liquefied natural gas exports.
    • Oil prices are dropping fast.
  • Thursday
    • Texas Gov. Rick Perry loves oil and natural gas exports.
    • The natural gas vehicle association has a new president.
  • Friday
    • Oil and gas jobs in Colorado are concentrated in Denver.
    • The Susan G. Komen foundation is using pink drill bits to fight breast cancer.

Interview with Idaho Professor Jay O’Laughlin

Until the last few years, Idaho has had virtually zero oil and gas production.  Just this summer, however, the first commercial natural gas well began supplying gas to the town of New Plymouth.  Idaho TV station KTVB reported on the situation, quoting the drilling company as saying 160-180 wells have been drilled in Idaho over the last 100 years with no luck.  Now drilling companies see a tremendous opportunity.

It is an interesting turn of events for the state, and presents some interesting policy questions.  Stakeholders seem to be relying on a report released last year by the University of Idaho Policy Analysis Group.  I did my undergraduate work at the University of Idaho, so I thought it would be interesting to talk with one of the report’s authors, Professor Jay O’Laughlin.

Prof. O’Laughlin taught me that the Policy Analysis Group is funded by the State of Idaho and tasked with providing nonpartisan policy research that is needed by the state government.  He explained that the state government requested a report on oil and gas policy in recent years as oil and gas production expanded.

Much of the land being produced in Idaho is actually granted to the state’s Universities, so the oil and gas production will help fund education.  The resources in Idaho are largely conventional.  Fracking is not currently expected to be used on a large scale in Idaho, but fracking is still a major concern for environmentalists.  The state legislature has created a new Oil and Gas Conservation Commission that is working to develop new rules to balance these environmental concerns against the benefits of producing oil and gas.  Prof. O’Laughlin pointed out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to offer guidance on fracking, leaving some states with limited information.  The professor also clued me in to another controversy I was not aware of.  In recent years, huge “megaloads” of equipment have been shipped into the nearby port of Lewiston so the equipment could be trucked to the Canadian oil sands.  This has raised objections from some locals and environmental groups.

Finally, Prof. O’Laughlin pointed out Idaho Governor Butch Otter’s work to promote “all of the above” energy.  In fact, October 2014 has been declared Idaho Energy Awareness Month.

It turns out we caught Prof. O’Laughlin just before his retirement at the end of this month.  I really enjoyed the conversation, and I’m glad he made time for me.  And I hope he enjoys his retirement in Florida!