January 27, 2011

The Freshman Class of the 112th Congress: Mapping Their Energy Resumes

The new members of Congress came to office this month with a diverse set of resumes. There are the usual lawyers, the MDs, an NFL star and even a former cast member of the Real World. We at the Natural Security Blog are interested in another group: those who – by their backgrounds or their campaign rhetoric – appear to be distinctly interested (or not) in our issues. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to guide you through who we think will be the natural security who’s who among the new members of the House and Senate.

We begin today with new members with work experience in the energy industry. There are a surprisingly large number of new members who fit this bill. Here are some of their energy resumes:

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-WV) is best known for his time as West Virginia’s Governor. However, before entering into politics he owned a coal brokerage firm. Sen. Manchin, who grew up in a small coal-mining community, also served as the Chairman of the Southern States Energy Board (SSEB) during his time as Governor. At the time, in describing how he saw the role of the SSEB he said, “Now, more than ever, the South is at the forefront of national energy policy and technology. Our challenge and opportunity is to secure America’s energy independence and environmental and economic goals at the same time. ” During his tenure as Governor, he presided over strong economic growth in WV driven in part by his expansion of the state’s energy industry.  An ardent critic of the EPA’s regulations on the coal industry, in February 2010 then-Gov. Manchin met with President Obama at the White House to address these concerns

In the House, Rep. John Carney (D-DE) was most recently employed as the President and CEO of Transformative Technologies LLC, a Delaware company that advises businesses on how to utilize renewable energy in their operations. During his time at the company, Carney “worked on efforts to manufacture towers and other components for the emerging offshore wind power industry.” Carney, who served as a staffer to then-Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) in the late 1980’s, the best way to restore American manufacturing is through investments into renewable energy technology, according to the Associated Press.  

Among the incoming Republicans, Bill Flores (R-TX) and Charlie Bass (R-NH) have the most extensive previous experience in the energy industry.

Rep. Flores comes to Congress after working for a number of years as the Chief Financial Officer of Houston’s Marine Drilling Companies Inc., a subsidiary of Pride International that provides offshore contract drilling of oil and gas wells, with operations concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico. Flores was also a founder of Gryphon Exploration Company, an independent oil and gas exploration and production company based out of Houston until August 2005, when it was purchased by Woodside Energy in August 2005. More recently, he co-founded, Phoenix Exploration, an oil and gas exploration and acquisition company, where he served as President and CEO.

Rep. Charlie Bass returns to the House this year after failing to win his bid for reelection in 2006. In the interim period, he served as an energy consultant for a number of companies. Additionally, Bass sat on the Board of Managers for New England Wood Pellet, a company that produces clean-burning wood. Most recently, in 2009, Bass joined the Board of Directors for Laidlaw BioPower, LLC, which develops biomass facilities in the United States.

A handful of other freshmen Republicans also have experience in the energy sector, though less extensive than Bass and Flores. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), for instance, had a brief stint as President of Sentry International, an oil equipment manufacturer. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) is returning to the House after his unsuccessful Senate bid in 2008. With his wife Cynthia, Rep. Pearce previously owned and operated Lea Fishing Tools, Inc, a small oil-service firm. The couple sold the company in 2003 to Texas-based Key Energy. Sen. Daniel Coats (R-IN), is returning to the Senate after winning back his former seat. Since leaving the Hill, he has served as a lobbyist for a number of private companies, 

What will their backgrounds in energy mean for the energy policies these members will support in Congress? It remains too early to tell but their rhetoric seems is line with the rest of their class: that increasing domestic energy production is the country’s best hope – something I’ll discuss in an upcoming post.