New Graduate Certificate focuses on the social, political, economic, and environmental impacts of oil and gas projects


From left to right: Mr. Tom Mitro, Co-Founder and Co-Director GEDS
Ms. Aurora Alimadi, Director of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Energy Albanian
Ms. Dorina Cinari, Director of EITI Albania (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative)
President Renu Khator, President and Chancellor, UH System
Mr. Dritan Spahieu, Director of Petroleum Agreements Albpeterol
Dr. Kairn Klieman, Co-Founder and Co-Director GEDS
Dr.Rebecca Golden Timsar, Associate Director GEDS
Mr. Radha Radhakrishnan, Managing Director, UH Energy

The Graduate Certificate in Global Energy, Development, and Sustainability (GEDS) is a nine-unit sequence of courses that offers graduate students, government officials, and leaders of NGOs current “best practices” for designing oil and gas projects that will prove beneficial to all stakeholders (communities, companies, governments) over the long term.

The certificate focuses on the social, political, economic, and environmental impacts of oil and gas projects (“non-technical” issues in oil and gas parlance) and is taught by a multidisciplinary group of UH faculty experts (from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS), UH LAW, Bauer Business School, and the College of Technology), as well as industry experts from the greater Houston region.

The GEDS certificate has been in existence for one year. It was co-created and co-directed by Dr. Kairn Klieman (UH History, specialist in African and Global energy histories) and Mr. Tom Mitro (former regional CFO Chevron: Angola, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, and UK, and consultant to governments in Africa). Dr. Rebecca Golden-Timsar (Ph.D. in Anthropology, expertise on gender and petro-violence in the Niger Delta) currently serves as the Associate Director. GEDS is housed in CLASS, administered and supported by the UH Center for Public History, and funded by UH Energy.

GEDS training and perspectives are critical because in many regions and nations, the advent of oil or natural gas production has not brought positive benefits to the society. Despite large amounts of investment and a massive influx of oil revenues, economies tend to fluctuate and stagnate, governments may fail, corruption often increases, standards of living do not increase for the majority of the population, and violence can erupt. This phenomenon is referred to as the “Natural Resource Curse” and has been a focus of study by economist and political scientists for more than 50 years. GEDs training draws on this body of theoretical work and goes beyond, drawing on historical case studies and real life experiences of oil industry experts to develop analytical tools for identifying, predicting, and mitigating key aspects of the Resource Curse before they set in. In this way, the GEDS certificate seeks to augment the more technical approaches to oil and gas development, allowing for the creation of projects that are sustainable over the long term. These are critical skills for anyone working, or planning on working, in organizations related to the oil and gas industry, as the effect of its impacts has become a key concern and focus for international oil companies and their shareholders, governments and NGO's over the past twenty years.

Between May 8 and 26th GEDS faculty conducted the first executive version of the certificate to three visiting officials from the Albanian Oil Ministry and the Albanian national oil company (Albpetrol). Through a three-week period of 9-5 classroom lectures and field trips to local energy-related exhibits and sites, the officials were able to up-date their knowledge of current best-practices regarding petroleum contracts and fiscal terms, local community relations and petroleum infrastructure impacts, economic evaluations, local content, corporate views of social responsibility and climate change, arbitration, and utilization of international standards and codes of conduct for companies operating in their nation.

The Albanian participants were very happy with the results; as Mr. Dritan Spahiu, Director of Petroleum Agreements Albetrol noted: "The excellent combination of professors & industry top leaders provided me with best international practices to maximize our governmental value from the Albanian petroleum sector.”