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UT Austin announces Interim Director of Energy Institute after fracking controversy

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Today, The University of Texas at Austin announced that it has appointed Chemical Engineering professor Thomas Edgar to act as Interim Director of the Energy Institute. The appointment comes after the previous director, Dr. Ray Orbach, stepped down amid controversy surrounding the Institute’s report on natural gas fracking and water contamination and the University’s lax financial disclosure policy. Additionally, an independent review committee ultimately concluded that the study “fell short of contemporary standards for scientific work”.

From the UT Austin press release:

Edgar has served as department chair of chemical engineering (1985-93), associate dean of engineering (1993-96) and associate vice president for academic computing (1996-2001). In the latter position, he had the responsibility of reorganizing and restructuring information technology and telecommunications services at the university, as well as starting new initiatives in instructional technology, distance education and campus IT governance.

Edgar’s current energy research covers renewable energy, combined heat and power, energy storage and improved oil recovery, and develops modeling, control and optimization tools to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon footprint. The group also is working with the university’s Utilities and Energy Management division to reduce energy consumption and offset CO2 emissions by improving the thermal efficiency of the campus’s combined heat, power and cooling system.

In a step forward, the University’s press release discloses Dr. Edgar’s financial interests:

In addition to mutual fund and real estate holdings, Edgar has invested in oil and gas properties and drilling programs, including Waveland Energy Partners.

More as it develops. Read the full press release here.

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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