A Free-Market Energy Blog

Remembering Glenn Schleede

By John Jennrich -- May 24, 2017

“The U.S. Energy Information Administration has come a long way in the quality of its analysis since Glenn, independent of any organization other than his own, launched critiques of the federal agency. I wouldn’t say that Glenn alone changed the EIA, but everyone knew there was an aggressive watchdog keeping a close eye on EIA’s work.”

To say that Glenn Schleede was opposed to taxpayer-funded renewables projects — especially wind power — is akin to saying the Washington Monument is a building.

Both statements are true, but both vastly understate reality.

Glenn, who died on May 7 at 83, was an energy analyst, federal official and utility executive — and a virtual vacuum cleaner for collecting data and policy analysis.

Over the past two decades, he was particularly outspoken about his dislike for wind power and taxpayer subsidies for what he considered to be an uneconomic technology. He much preferred reliable, dispatchable and what he viewed as more-economic fuels for power generation.

Whatever his view, he had loads of knowledge and experience to back it up.

In 1973, Glenn became an associate director (energy and science) of the White House Domestic Council. From 1976 to 1980, he was senior vice president of the National Coal Association.  When Ronald Reagan was elected president, Glenn served on the transition team and in 1981 was appointed executive associate director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Following his federal service, he worked for 10 years as vice president of the New England Electric System (NEES) and as president of New England Energy Inc.  He retired from utility work in 1992, returned to the Washington area (living in Reston, in Northern Virginia) and formed his own consulting and policy company, Energy Market and Policy Analysis Inc. (EMPAInc.).

What his resume doesn’t show, however, is how generous Glenn was with his time — time for friends, church, others working in the energy-policy vineyards and for journalists struggling to figure out what it all meant.

For me, Glenn was an excellent source and a guide to what was important. I was Washington editor of the Oil & Gas Journal from 1980 to 1983, then began working for The Oil Daily in 1984, eventually helping to start and then run as editor and columnist the market-oriented Natural Gas Week, from 1985 well into 1996.

Journalists get a ton of mail, including paper and electronic, but I knew when I got something from EMPAInc., it would be Glenn sending me something worth reading.

In March 1995, for example, I got such a note from Glenn, who talked about the billion-dollar costs of faulty forecasts — costs to utility customers, taxpayers and companies. As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”  And Glenn knew that, but he railed against poor analysis and politically skewed predictions.  He complained about forecasts of inadequate supplies of natural gas “by organizations representing competing energy sources and from gas producers seeking tax breaks for exploration and production.”

He complained then about lack of foresight by some analysts and by the failure to grasp energy market dynamism in which millions of people make daily decisions. He also said there is a failure to recognize technology improvements and to overestimate the lead time needed for markets to adjust to new signals.  And he complained that government analysts especially did not grasp that for a private company to invest in new exploration did not make sense if a producer had ample supplies of reserves not yet in production.

That was Glenn talking 22 years ago, but his thoughts remain on target today. Analysts now take into account items such as drilled but uncompleted (DUC) wells, production ready to go but waiting for a better time to come out of the ground.  This improved understanding of market economics shows up now among analysts ranging from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) to small private firms such as RBN Energy in Houston.

Indeed, EIA has come a long way in the quality of its analysis since Glenn, independent of any organization other than his own, launched critiques of the federal agency. I wouldn’t say that Glenn alone changed the EIA, but everyone knew there was an aggressive watchdog keeping a close eye on EIA’s work.

Adam Sieminski, administrator of EIA from 2012 until this past January, got more than a few missives from Glenn. Adam, ever the diplomat and a world-class analyst himself, pushed back on some Schleede-grams, but Glenn was never deterred from speaking his mind.

However, Glenn also worked hard on any task before him, whether he initiated the effort or was asked to help. Shirley Neff, now a senior adviser in the front office at EIA, recalls how Glenn helped her “immensely under pressure to beat the BTU tax in 1993,” when she was a key staffer on the Senate Energy Committee.  She praises Glenn for his “selfless expenditure of time and knowledge.”

The last time I had an extended session with Glenn was when we had lunch a few years ago at a restaurant in Reston. I was out of journalism by then, so I wouldn’t be mentioning his name in a column or article.  But Glenn was no less enthusiastic about discussing the issues of the day than he ever was.

Glenn Schleede knew a lot, cared a lot and freely shared both his knowledge and passion. That was his gift, and many of us were the beneficiaries.

2 Comments


  1. Jon Boone  

    “…I knew when I got something from EMPAInc., it would be Glenn sending me something worth reading.”

    Ain’t that the truth. It wasn’t long before I concluded that EMPA was shorthand for EMPATHY, for Glenn was above all an empath, one who genuinely felt the suffering of others, particularly when that suffering was inflicted by boorish pretension and arch cupidity.

    His “opinion” about the renewables du jour, wind and solar was not informed by fashion, as is the case with most energy journalists. Rather, he examined the issue brick by brick as they lay upon a whole cloth of performance and concluded they were much more trouble than they were worth as sources of energy. He then realized that those who pitched them were con artists, exploiting both the federal treasury and journalistic intelligence for tawdry profit. And he took great umbrage against those who would inflict gargantuan wind plants on rural landscapes, ripping off the rural poor, providing little but dysfunction.

    By plainly exposing how the wind industry was profiteering via vast public subsidies gained through the worst kind of crony capitalism, Glenn rendered great public service. Humanitarian service.

    Why not an award for such in his name?

    Reply

  2. Tribute for Twelve in the Energy/Climate Debate (Part I) - Master Resource  

    […] GLEN SCHLEEDE: Late and great, his was a non-compromising voice during some very inhospitable decades in the energy debate (see the tribute to Schleede here). […]

    Reply

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