Cities Want To Be ‘Energy Capital’

There are some people in Houston who worry that the city could suffer the same fate as Detroit: a place that once dominated an industry and now doesn't. KUHF's StateImpact Texas reporter Dave Fehling looks at threats to Houston's claim as "the world's energy capital."


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“Right out this window, that was the former Enron building that Chevron now occupies.”

Chevron building In downtown Houston…

“Look just down the street here and you’re gonna see Shell Oil Company.”

…we found Lane Sloan with a lot on his mind.

“But China’s the one that worries me the most”

Sloan was once a top executive at Shell Oil.

Greater Houston Partnership…”

Now, he devotes a lot of time to a business group committee. Its mission is quote, “perpetuating Houston as the energy capital of the world.”

That claim is serious business here, home to the nation’s biggest refineries and several thousand energy-related companies.

Lane Sloan
Lane Sloan

But it’s not just about pride and profit says Sloan. He says it only makes the United States more secure to have the world’s energy industry centered in Houston.

“Because if you begin to lose the concentration in Houston as the energy capital, you started getting into, in my opinion, national security issues.”

He sees Brazil, even China, becoming bigger players in global energy influence.

But one place vying for its own claim to energy supremacy is right here in the good ‘ol USA.

“I would say we sealed the deal as that energy capital when shale gas became a major piece of our portfolio.”

That’s Kathyrn Klaber.

She’s in Pittsburg with a group that promotes natural gas drilling. And in a twist of geography, she’s not far from Houston — Houston, Pennsylvania.

“You know, Houston, PA may soon be misinterpreted as Houston Texas!”

She’s kidding of course. Only  a couple thousand people live in Houston, Pennsylvania. But it’s in the heart of the state’s natural gas boom.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said he wants to make his state—quote—the Texas of natural gas. He wants big energy companies to headquarter there.

Is it happening?

We asked commercial real estate broker Sid Smith in Philadelphia.

Tyler Priest
Tyler Priest

“We have not seen that yet and don’t expect to see big corporate relocation.”

One problem says Smith is Pennsylvania’s taxes and complicated land use rules.

“Whereas when you go to a Houston, it’s much easier. The corporate taxes are lower and of course we have a fairly significant income tax.”

Smith should know.

“I grew up in Houston, Texas.”

He now loves living in Pennsylvania, but doesn’t expect it to rival his home state in the energy business any time soon.

In fact, Houston’s dominance has only grown in recent years as energy companies in other cities consolidated. Tyler Priest is an oil industry historian at the University of Houston.

“They reorganized and re-centralized their people in Houston. That tells you the kind of attraction the city has and grows as an energy capital.”

computer-generated image of ExxonMobil's new campus
Computer-generated image illustrates ExxonMobil’s new campus near the intersection of I-45 and the Hardy Toll Road.

The latest example: one of the biggest corporations in the world, Exxon Mobil is building an enormous, 385 acre campus just north of the Houston.

It is where Exxon will consolidate some 8,000 workers from local offices and, some speculate, from out-of-state locations as well.

For StateImpact Texas, I’m Dave Fehling.


>For more, visit StateImpact Texas.

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