National Capital Area Chapter of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics

NCAC Featured Member

 

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Featured Member

May 2014

 

Shirley Neff

Senior Adviser at the Energy Information Administration (EIA)

In the profile below, Shirley talks about her experience in the energy/environment arena and shares several of her past achievements including her leadership roles with NCAC/USAEE.

I have been in the energy sector since my first professional position at the Kansas Corporation Commission in 1986. FERC had just started down the path that led to the restructuring of the natural gas market. I knew nothing about energy but was hired because the Commission needed someone to think like an economist not an accountant. I joined the NCAC/IAEE in 1990 shortly after I moved to DC to work for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA). The early 1990's were quiet in much of the energy sector, but a wild ride for everyone in the gas industry which had broken into warring factions over take or pay and Canadian imports, especially the Iroquois pipeline. Enron led the effort to convince the other pipelines to agree to FERC's proposal for open access. Large industrial users were trying to bypass local distribution systems to cut costs. (The politics today over LNG exports and the Keystone pipeline pale in comparison.)

In 1992, Lorraine Cross and Len Levine talked me into being secretary of the NCAC which launched my serious involvement in the organization. (Putting out the newsletter involved mailing labels and rolls of stamps). One my most memorable early NCAC events was the annual dinner when Bob Ebel shared details of his recent visit with the oil "industry" in the newly post-Soviet Russia. When I joined the staff of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 1993, I relied heavily on my connections - and phone directories - from the NCAC and the USAEE/IAEE. The first week, Chairman Johnston asked me to put together some alternatives to the Clinton Administration's proposed Btu tax which had just passed the House. He knew the votes weren't there for Senate passage. I had to input data from various EIA reports to do the analysis. Glenn Schleede came to my rescue by providing a floppy disk with some of the files I needed. Many other colleagues from NCAC/IAEE were invaluable, and patient, taking my many phone calls, John Jimison, Mike Canes and Adam Sieminski to name a few. The NCAC meetings themselves, as well as the professional relationships developed through the organization, were invaluable as I worked mostly with lawyers on the Hill. In fact, that professional encouragement I received in the NCAC/USAEE/IAEE organization, led to my priority as Councilmember, President and Senior Fellow of the USAEE to expand the student programs and networking opportunities for young professionals.

I spent nearly eight years working on the full range of energy policy issues in the Senate, from upstream oil and gas matters to being lead staff negotiator on passage of a federal renewable portfolio standard. When I left the Senate, I taught an energy policy class at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University for several years. By that time, the conversation on energy policy and economic analysis in the U.S. was moving beyond the regulatory approach with administrative oversight to an increasing emphasis on incentives for restructured markets supplemented with performance standards for vehicles and equipment. Technological advances across the sector from production to network systems and user applications, coupled with the awareness of the climate challenge, have further shifted the focus to reliability and resilience. I think the challenges today continue in that vein with the added awareness of cybersecurity.

In 1995, the year I was president of the NCAC, the Congress passed legislation to lift the export ban on Alaska North Slope crude. Nearly 20 years later, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee are asking EIA for an analysis of the potential impact of allowing exports of any domestic crude oil. And, the biggest impediment to continuing the expansion of renewable power is the flattening demand for electricity due to efficiency improvements.