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

NCAC Featured Member

 

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Featured Member

July 2014

 

Thomas J. Woods

Independent Energy Consultant

Affiliation and years of experience in energy and/or environment

I am an independent energy consultant focused on oil and gas from burner-tip to end-use, and electricity generation and markets.


I am a lapsed, experimental nuclear physicist (PhD from UCLA), who began his career in energy in May 1974 at the General Accounting Office (GAO) in Washington, D.C. In the beginning of my energy career, I focused on nuclear generation and general energy supply and demand issues, but then began to focus more on natural gas. My focus expanded to oil and electricity because oil and gas are co-products and electricity generation was a major market for natural gas sales.


I began work at the Gas Research Institute (GRI) in late 1980 and worked there through early 1997, where I began the baseline projection of U.S. natural gas supply and demand and developed the GRI Hydrocarbon Model. In early 1997, I became an energy consultant for Ziff Energy and in 2003 for Platts Energy. I have been an independent consultant since 2008.


For much of my career I have been an optimist about oil and gas resource prospects, and have the scars to prove it.


The energy industry has been a stimulating and wonderful area to work in. It has demonstrated to me that the progress in the energy industry is due as much to its "dry holes" as to its successes.


Any particular achievement/interest in energy/environment you would like to mention?

In 1976, I wrote a GAO report on the very contentious issue of natural gas price regulation, which both sides characterized as the "most objective" work in the area. They proved it by both correctly and in context using it in the discussions that followed. The Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978 began the path to deregulating interstate wellhead prices, and I would like to think that this report provided a basis to identify common objectives to address gas price and supply issues.


In your opinion, what are important issues facing the energy industry nowadays?

Economic growth over the last eight centuries has been strongly underpinned by technology advances that have increased the leverage of energy use to generate economic activity and reduced "expenditures" to produce, manage, and use that energy. However, energy analysis over the last 40 years has been driven by expectations of depleting supply with ever increasing prices, a fundamental change from this past. Recent breakthroughs in less conventional oil and gas production suggest that we may be returning to a world more reflective of the long-term past, where prices experience little or no upward pressures from "depletion." If this proves to be a long-term change, analytic tools and concepts will need to reflect this changed world.


We need also to recognize that the successes we enjoy were contemporaneous with failures, and that it is only the freedom of people to follow a wide variety of paths, many or most of which may prove to be dead ends.


How long have you been a member of NCAC? Any particular NCAC memory you would like to share with us?

I joined NCAC in the mid-1980s, but became inactive when I was working out of Houston, where I joined the local USAEE chapter there. I have served on the Council, and am a past president of NCAC.