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MU launches energy management sequence

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Marshall University has a young program training students for management jobs in the energy industry.

The program is led by Michael Spencer, a professor of management, marketing and management information systems at Marshall's Elizabeth McDowell Lewis College of Business.

The program started a year ago and might have its first graduates this spring, Spencer said.

"I really believe in this program," Spencer said. "We've got to have energy. We've got to have managers who understand energy."

The Marshall program is modeled after one the University of Oklahoma has offered for the past 50 years.

"They're more focused on oil and gas, but the same approach applies to coal," Spencer said.

Marshall focuses on the energy sources most in use in West Virginia, namely coal, oil and gas. The energy management program deals in the business end of the energy industry, not the engineering and geology parts.

The Oklahoma program is accredited by the American Association of Professional Landmen, and Marshall is pursuing AAPL accreditation, Spencer said.

The AAPL website lists nine university programs it accredits: the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City University, the University of Calgary, Penn State, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Texas Tech, Western State Colorado University, the University of Tulsa and the University of Wyoming.

Marshall's program includes courses such as green management and environmental economics. More courses are being added, Spencer said.

The goal of the program is to prepare students for a variety of management careers in the industry, such as traders, land managers, landmen and land managers.

Spencer said he describes various issues and situations in the industry and then asks students, "What's the solution? Come at everything from a solution-based approach."

Spencer said coal will remain an important fuel for years to come, and natural gas has great growth potential, especially if the U.S. exports it.

"We need to have energy," he said. "We need all the energy we can get.

"We also need to understand if there are problems that come with fossil fuels, denying is not the answer because it will catch up with us."

Oil is converted into chemicals, which make fertilizers that increase agricultural production to feed the growing population, Spencer said.

Energy production companies must be viable economically, Spencer said. They need to keep up their quarterly earnings, because if they don't, they'll be out of business. But they must also have a long-term outlook, he said.

"We need to do it smart, because if we don't do it smart, we have all these regulatory compliance issues that come and hit us," he said. "Energy's an amazing topic.

"A lot of people see evil in fossil fuel companies. I don't see that."

Spencer said instead, he sees energy and fossil fuels as things people need now.