Cardinal Cadence Spring/Summer 2012

Planning for new energy

Alumnus Mark RousePicture hundreds of wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean rimming the eastern edge of the U.S. and sophisticated equipment floating off the northwest coast to harness the Pacific Ocean’s wave energy. Those pictures could become reality in coming years as hydrocarbons become scarcer and the nation increasingly turns to alternative energy sources.

Mark Rouse ’75 and his colleagues at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have spent the past few years planning for that future. An oceanographer by training, Rouse was among those who helped write national regulations for offshore renewable energy activities along the outer continental shelf off the U.S. coast. Rouse has worked for the federal government for 35 years. His career began with the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., where the Apollo and Space Shuttle engine testing took place.

Since 1982, he has worked primarily in the New Orleans office of the agency that manages federal offshore oil and gas activity, weathering a few changes in the name and organization of the agency formerly known as Minerals Management Service and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. His agency assumed a larger role of regulating federal offshore renewable energy after the Energy Policy Act of 2005 was signed by President George W. Bush. When the opportunity arose to take a leadership role in the development of offshore renewable energy, Rouse volunteered.

“I’m in the twilight of my career with the government. It was something new and exciting, a little bit different than what I’d been doing the last few years,” said Rouse, who lives in Slidell, La., with his wife, Ann. “I’ve worked all over the agency. This was something else that sparked my interest.”

Finding activities to spark his interest has never been a problem for Rouse. As a Lamar student, he played trumpet in the “Grandest Band in the Land” until a car wreck during his junior year of college ended his musical career. Rouse then became active in the Cards, a Lamar spirit organization. He helped organize a large and successful Cards reunion at LU during the 2010 football season.

Along with a challenging career involving environmental and policy work related to offshore oil and gas exploration and production, Rouse has found that planning for the implementation of cutting- edge alternative energy technologies is interesting indeed. Rouse predicts that, for the most part, offshore renewable energy development will become common in state waters before major projects begin appearing in federal waters, where the permitting process can require the collection of more data.

Already, Texas has a few offshore wind leases in state waters with meteorological towers collecting data needed to determine whether sites have efficient, reliable winds that would allow wind turbines to make financial sense. He noted that many state governments have implemented energy plans, known as Renewable Portfolio Standards, that call for a certain percentage of retail energy sales to come from renewable sources by specific target years. Those renewable sources might include everything from onshore or offshore wind energy to hydrokinetic equipment to capture offshore wave or current energy to biomass or solar energy.

“A lot of states I’ve worked with over the years have been interested in getting projects started off their individual coasts. It’s not something that’s being pigeonholed; rather, it’s in the limelight right now,” Rouse said. “In the years to come, you’ll probably see a phasing out of natural gas and oil as feedstock for electrical power generation and see more and more of the renewable energy taking hold. The country will eventually go in that direction.”

by Beth Gallaspy

May 2012