Scott Tinker

After the second largest energy company in the world recently invested nearly $4 million in the University, the money will be used to research new energy technologies.

Shell Oil Company gave a check to UT representing its contributions to the University for this year on Feb. 10. Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology and associate dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences, said the investment will further support students’ education by contributing to a wide variety of resources to UT such as funds, programs and research initiatives.

Tinker said Shell has been investing money in UT for many years and the benefits are felt in many colleges such as the Jackson School of Geosciences, the Cockrell School of Engineering, the McCombs School of Business and the College of Natural Sciences.

The partnership will advance research in not only the general area of energy but also in more specific areas such as unconventional oil and gas research, Tinker said.

One of the benefits of the partnership is the recruitment of students and interns who have a passion for the oil industry, petroleum engineering senior Jose Gomez said.

Gomez interned for Shell Oil Company in the summer of 2009 and 2011. He said his experience was beneficial and helped him prepare for life after college.

“I applaud Shell for their investments in UT,” Gomez said. “My internship with them was a great experience that provided me with inside knowledge of the corporate world.”

Gomez said Shell can make their presence stronger at UT and other universities by showing more support for undergraduate efforts through student organizations, perhaps by attending meetings or funding organizations’ activities.

Shell’s main goal is to improve the industry, and their investment in university research ultimately allows them to accomplish their goal, Gomez said.

Gomez said his internship with Shell inspired him to look into the research program at UT, which Shell contributes to every year.

Mechanical engineering senior Orlando Salmon said he recently participated in university research and quickly thereafter reaped the benefits it offered. Salmon is a member of Pi Sigma Pi, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and an officer in the National Society of Black Engineers.

“College is such an exploration stage for students, requiring them to go out and discover new things,” Salmon said. “Participating in research goes hand-in-hand with the college experience and allows students to be at the forefront of their field, expand their mind and explore the world.”

Jeremy Ester watches the gas pump meter rise as his tank fills on Tuesday afternoon. On average, gas prices in Austin are up by more than a dollar compared to this time last year.

Photo Credit: Emilia Harris | Daily Texan Staff

Austin drivers are paying less for gas this month, but filling the tank is still emptying pockets quicker than it did last June.

Gasoline prices in Austin are down more than 20 cents per gallon since last month but remain nearly a dollar more expensive than this time in 2010.

According to the AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report, a gallon of regular gasoline in Austin currently costs $3.60. This is a marked decrease from last month’s $3.82 per gallon, but remains high in comparison to last June’s $2.63.

Other Texas cities see a similar pattern, with gas prices dropping but still about a dollar higher than June 2010. The current national average for a regular gallon of gasoline is $3.75, a decrease from last month’s $3.97 but an increase from last year’s $2.72.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 69 percent of gasoline costs come from the cost of crude oil, while taxes, distribution and marketing, and refining make up the rest.

The administration pinpoints the cost of crude oil as the most influential factor in the price of gasoline. In 2008, gas prices peaked with a national average of $4.11 per gallon of regular gasoline as demand grew faster than suppliers could provide. Since then, the weakening economy and subsequent decrease of demand has led to current rates, according to the AAA report.

“It really does base itself on supply and demand. We’re drinking about a tanker every thirteen minutes,” said professor Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology in the University of Texas.

He said a tanker amounts to about 50 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Concerns about reduced supply often lead to jumps in price, Tinker said. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, is a primary actor in determining the price of crude oil as its members produce about 58 percent of the world’s supply, according to their website.

“Political turmoil in the oil supply areas — most notably the Middle East of late — causes prices to go up,” geological sciences professor Charles Groat said. “They also go up when domestic production is threatened as it was during the moratorium on offshore drilling that followed the BP Macondo oil spill.”

According to the Energy Information Administration, other factors that reflect price differences between states and regions are tax policies, distance from refineries, refinery maintenance issues and competition between gas stations.

As gas prices increase, drivers must adapt to the higher cost of transportation.

“I have to live week by week and put in 10 dollars at a time,” human development and family sciences junior Devon Debord said.

Debord has also reduced her gasoline usage in smaller ways such as opening her car windows instead of turning on the air conditioning.

Debord said there are benefits to wholesale store clubs that offer discounts to members who use their gasoline pumps.
Tinker said the price of a gallon of gas is still “remarkably affordable” when compared to what the same amount of other more easily obtainable liquid products, such as milk or water.

“There’s so much that goes on to get that gallon of gasoline to us that’s very expensive and very risky,” Tinker said.


Originally printed on 6/9/2011 as Gasoline prices, decline, far from low

UT Bureau of Economic Geology director Scott Tinker drew nearly 300 people to a lecture on global energy consumption and usage.

Tinker’s lecture at the Blanton Museum of Art on Wednesday could appear on film as part of a documentary on the present and future state of energy consumption. The Arco Films production team has been working with Tinker on the 90-minute film since early 2009.

“I have two college-aged kids, and they’re always sending me videos on YouTube,” Tinker said. “So you could say that’s kind of how the idea
took root.”

Putting together a video to showcase this research was also a way for Tinker to get information to a broader audience and a bigger demographic.
“We wanted to show what the future of energy would be in a realistic world, not an ideal one,” said film producer and director Harry Lynch.

Lynch’s team shot more than 500 hours of footage throughout 10 different countries for the movie, which aims to show the viewer unfamiliar aspects of the energy production process. For example, many people are unaware of the high costs that go into creating and distributing energy, Tinker said.

“We’re really spoiled in how cheap energy is, whether it’s the cost of electricity or the amount of money that we spend on a gallon of gas,” he said. “We get excited when a gallon of gas turns to $4, but there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into bringing that gas from underground to
the consumer.”

Geology senior Michael Nieto attended the talk and said he agrees with the idea that the general public needs more education about
energy conservation.

“People in general don’t really take into consideration the effects of using day-to-day technologies,” Nieto said. “It would be good for students to see this video because it’s good to be more aware about how your life affects the environment.”

The public should be able to view the documentary, which will accompany a large website, later this year.

“We’ve actually screened a rough cut of the movie and had an original score written,” said Tinker. “We hope to be finished in May, when we’ll take the finished product to a distributor. Hopefully, you’ll see it as a feature length film on HBO and then on the DVD markets.”