2014 Forum Overview

The 2014 Sam Nunn Policy Forum Executive Summary is now available.

The shale boom in North America and expansion of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade raise the promise of a new era of natural gas. The rapid fusion of technological, market, and political innovations in the U.S. gas and oil sectors, in particular, stands to debunk popular narratives of America’s energy import dependency "Achilles heel" and global decline. Prospects for tapping the enormous domestic gas resource base and becoming a net exporter – together with optimism about replicating these feats in other parts of the world – offer possibilities of fundamentally redrawing the global energy map to the advantage of U.S. economic power and geopolitical influence well into the future.

Notwithstanding this euphoria, uncertainties remain: confusion over the scale and profitability of untapped resources; concerns about managing ecological risks and interdependence of power generation and distribution networks; worries that foreign sales will drive prices too high for domestic consumers; and nagging public anxiety about unconventional gas development. The 2014 Policy Forum will address the contours and implications of the shifting global supply and demand and related transformation of gas networks.  Specifically, it will explore how this changing landscape resonates in the Southeastern United States.

With the decline of coal-fired generation, growth in industrial demand, and geographical convergence of gas turbine manufacturing by major companies, the Southeast is rapidly becoming a large “net demand region.” As such, the Forum will feature discussion of how cheap gas is altering the energy mix, economic competitiveness and efficiency; spurring a manufacturing renaissance; and affecting households across the region. Additional attention will be devoted to identifying local technological innovations and novel partnerships at the intersection of the digital and energy revolutions, and how such regional developments can advance the national discourse on policies related to energy efficiency, security, and emissions.

Drawing on the insight of distinguished speakers and panelists, this year’s Forum program will promote constructive dialogue, technological innovation, and policy action across levels of government, the local community, the private sector, and Georgia Tech to address key questions, such as:

  • What current trends in the global gas sector are producers and consumers facing?
  • What are the global dynamics and potential flashpoints associated with transformation of the gas sector?
  • How will the U.S. gas supply base respond to increasing demand at home and abroad?
  • Are there tradeoffs between U.S. LNG exports and domestic prices, and economic competitiveness?
  • How do global trends and national policy decisions in the gas sector affect industrial, economic, energy, environmental, and household portfolios across the Southeast region?
  • How do advances in information and communications technologies intersect with those in the natural gas sector to shape the intelligence, trustworthiness, security, distributed, and climate impacts of the nation’s energy infrastructure?
  • What promising developments are underway at Georgia Tech and across the region that can facilitate new business models, cross-sector partnerships, and sustainability with the “dash to gas”?

The Policy Forum will raise public awareness and highlight prospects for American, regional, and Georgia Tech leadership to seize opportunities and meet the challenges presented by the natural gas boom.