Katie Mehnert reflects on the progress Houston has made within the energy transition and future of work following her experience ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Photo courtesy of ALLY

As I stood on the platform at the world’s largest stock exchange to ring the closing bell, surrounded by 130 people from across the energy industry, I saw it clearly: how the private sector will play a major role in getting us to an era of net zero. The people who power the energy industry will do the hard work. We’ve already begun. And we’re unafraid of the long journey ahead — something more than 40 of us exemplified that weekend by running a marathon.

The trip to New York City days ago was an exhilarating whirlwind. But it was also something much more: A chance to show the markets, the nation, and the world that Houston is leading the energy transition. (It didn’t hurt that we popped up on Good Morning America.)

From the beginning, the idea behind this pair of events — ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and running the TCS New York City Marathon — was aimed at sending crucial messages. That recognizing climate change and building solutions is an obligation and an opportunity. That the energy industry understands this. That investors have good reason to support climate tech, one of the most exciting and fastest growing sectors. And, last but not least, that people’s perceptions of Houston as being all about oil and gas are simply wrong.

The dozens of us who gathered came from across the country and around the world, But by far, the largest contingent was from right here in Houston. Executives, engineers, entrepreneurs, and other innovators took part. People spearheading projects in every facet of energy, from wind to solar, carbon capture, and other methods of dramatically reducing carbon emissions. All as one team.

Those who traveled from “the energy capital” knew how important it was to highlight our Houston pride. As a new report from the Texas Climate Tech Collective points out, the biggest problem in the city’s climate tech ecosystem is its image. “Outsider perceptions of Houston often draw on negative stereotypes,” the report explains. “The number one disadvantage survey respondents chose – even more than access to VC capital – was Houston’s anti-climate reputation outside the state.”

It’s a problem I’ve been trying to combat for years, including through op-eds in national and international media outlets. Fortunately, the idea is starting to get through. Just days ago, the Financial Times reported that Houston claimed the top spot in this year’s FT-Nikkei Investing in America rankings by “moving beyond oil.” Our city, the paper said, “has become a hub for green energy innovation by building on its hydrocarbon past.”

Houston, and Texas a whole, should be immensely proud of this. But the energy industry has a long history of failing to tell its own stories. It’s time to change that. In fact, the recommendations in the collective’s report include “campaigning to improve Houston’s reputation, improving promotion of Houston’s energy transition initiatives and accomplishments, educating politicians and consumers, reversing anti-climate perception.”

Photo courtesy of ALLY

Building bridges

All of the challenges we face, including the perception problem, will only be overcome if we work together. So the era of siloes must end. Climate change is an “all hands on deck” situation. This means companies large and small, as well as businesses focusing on all forms of energy, need to develop a “one-team” mentality.

We also need to step up our engagement with public sector entities. A great deal of public sector investment is being poured into renewable energy programs. Since I’ve served as an ambassador to the Department of Energy’s Equity in Energy initiative and a member of the National Petroleum Council, I’ve met many people in government who are eager to cooperate with us to help ensure that the United States leads the way in the energy transition.

The need for building these kinds of bridges is another reason that many of the participants in our Women & Allies in Energy team saw the New York City marathon as such a strong metaphor. It’s known for its bridges. And having run across all of them — and stopped for a quick selfie on the toughest one of all, the Queensboro Bridge — I’m reminded of their importance. I was happy to see that another recommendation in the collective’s report speaks directly to this. It calls for, “Building bridges between public and private, energy corporates and startups, universities and startups, and startups and mentors; seeking partnerships with other ecosystems; improving resources for early stage startups.”

We also need to build bridges among groups of people. More than ever, the industry needs diversity, equity and inclusion. (See my recent piece for Fast Company about why the C-Suite should double down, not shy away from, DEI.) We need to welcome people with all sorts of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. The greatest form of capital the energy sector has in building the future is not financial. It’s human capital. And the greatest natural resource we have is not one form of energy. It’s the people whose hard work, creativity, collaboration, and grit will get us to the finish line.

To help make all this happen, I’m calling for Houston to come together on climate change. Capitalizing on the annual Climate Week in New York City, and building on an event the City of Houston organized in 2021, let’s bring all industries and all people together next fall to show that we recognize climate reality, and are ready to take action together.

The next generation

While I did have the chance to lead the delegation at the NYSE closing bell, I did not hold the gavel — at least, not by myself. Instead, I handed it to my 12-year-old daughter, Ally. (Yes, her name is a big part of the inspiration behind our company name, ALLY Energy.)

As leaders in energy, we have to keep our eyes firmly focused on the next generation. This means not only giving them a strong supply of energy and healthier conditions on the planet. It also means giving them future job opportunities.

It’s up to us to build the pipeline for future talent. We need to improve STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education. And we need to demonstrate to people who are currently underrepresented in our industry — such as women and members of minority groups — that they have a future in the world’s most exciting industry.

We can do this. We can get out of our bubble, show our Houston pride to the world, and lead the way to “energy 2.0” — an era of plentiful energy supplies and net-zero emissions. After all, dozens of us have returned from New York City with a mission: capitalize on all that momentum, join together as a team, and run the race to net zero.

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Katie Mehnert is founder and CEO of Ally Energy, a Houston-based talent and culture platform for the energy industry and 2023 Houston Innovation Award recipient.

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Things to know: Beryl in the rearview, Devon Energy's big deal, and events not to miss

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Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition.

Hurricane Beryl's big impact

Hundreds of thousands of people in the Houston area likely won’t have power restored until this week, as the city swelters in the aftermath of Hurricane Beryl.

The storm slammed into Texas on July 8, knocking out power to nearly 2.7 million homes and businesses and leaving huge swaths of the region in the dark and without air conditioning in the searing summer heat.

Although repairs have restored power to nearly 1.4 million customers, the scale of the damage and slow pace of recovery has put CenterPoint Energy, which provides electricity to the nation's fourth-largest city, under mounting scrutiny over whether it was sufficiently prepared for the storm and is doing enough now to make things right.

Some frustrated residents have also questioned why a part of the country that is all too familiar with major storms has been hobbled by a Category 1 hurricane, which is the weakest kind. But a storm's wind speed, alone, doesn't determine how dangerous it can be. Click here to continue reading this article from the AP.

Big deal: Devon Energy to acquire Houston exploration, production biz in $5B deal

Devon Energy is buying Grayson Mill Energy's Williston Basin business in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $5 billion as consolidation in the oil and gas sector ramps up.

The transaction includes $3.25 billion in cash and $1.75 billion in stock.

Grayson Mill Energy, based in Houston, is an oil and gas exploration company that received an initial investment from private equity firm EnCap Investments in 2016.

The firm appears to be stepping back from energy sector as it sells off assets. Last month EnCap-backed XCL Resources sold its Uinta Basin oil and gas assets to SM Energy Co. and Northern Oil and Gas in a transaction totaling $2.55 billion. EnCap had another deal in June as well, selling some assets to Matador Resources for nearly $2 billion. Click here to continue reading.

Events not to miss

Put these Houston-area energy-related events on your calendar.

  • 2024 Young Leaders Institute: Renewable Energy and Climate Solutions is taking place July 15 to July 19 at Asia Society of Texas. Register now.
  • CCS/Decarbonization Project Development, Finance and Investment, taking place July 23 to 25, is the deepest dive into the economic and regulatory factors driving the success of the CCS/CCUS project development landscape. Register now.
  • The 5th Texas Energy Forum 2024, organized by U.S. Energy Stream, will take place on August 21 and 22 at the Petroleum Club of Houston. Register now.

Growing Houston biotech company expands leadership as it commercializes sustainable products

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Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

“It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

“Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

New talent-packed TV show taps into Texas oil boom history

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A new television show that's slated to premiere this fall will put Texas' oil boom on center stage.

Taylor Sheridan's buzzy new Texas-based series Landman will premiere Sunday, November 17, on Paramount+, the network revealed. That's just one week after the November 10 debut of the final episodes of Sheridan's Yellowstone on Paramount.

Landmanwill launch with two episodes, with subsequent ones dropping weekly on Sundays, a news release says. In total, the first season will be 10 episodes long. The series is based on Texas Monthly's acclaimed podcast Boomtown by West Texas-raised journalist Christian Wallace, which aired from late 2019 to early 2020. Wallace is serving as a consultant and writer on the series.

"Set in the proverbial boomtowns of West Texas, Landman is a modern-day tale of fortune seeking in the world of oil rigs," the show's release says. "Based on the notable 11-part podcast Boomtown, the series is an upstairs/downstairs story of roughnecks and wildcat billionaires fueling a boom so big, it’s reshaping our climate, our economy and our geopolitics."

Landman, Paramount+'Landman' stars Billy Bob Thornton. Photo courtesy of Paramount+

The series stars Billy Bob Thornton as the titular "land man" Tommy Norris, a crisis manager for an oil company.

He leads an all-star cast that includes Demi Moore as Cami Miller and Jon Hamm in a recurring guest role as her husband, Texas oil titan Monty Miller. Ali Larter plays Thornton's wife, Angela Norris; their two kids are portrayed by Michelle Randolph (1923) and Jacob Lofland (Joker 2).

Landman, Jon Hamm, Demi MooreJon Hamm stars as Texas oil titan Monty Miller, and Demi Moore plays his wife, Cami.Photo courtesy of Paramount+

Other stars include James Jordan (Yellowstone), Kayla Wallace (When Calls the Heart), Mark Collie (Nashville), and Paulina Chávez (The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia); Andy Garcia (Expendables franchise) and Michael Peña (End of Watch)will make guest appearances.

Sheridan is creator and executive co-producer, and the show is produced by MTV Entertainment Studios, 101 Studios, and Sheridan’s Bosque Ranch Productions. Its release comes sooner than expected; even the show's IMDB page says "2025."

Although it's set in West Texas,Landman has been filming around Dallas-Fort Worth since early 2024, with the show's stars frequenting restaurants and shops around town. Fans have been making a sport of posting local star sightings on social media.

Some lucky residents even got to be extras in sports scenes shot at TCU.

Unlike 1883, which was filmed in and around North Texas in 2021, Landman is not considered a Yellowstone spinoff.

Filming around Dallas-Fort Worth is convenient for Sheridan, who lives on a ranch near Weatherford with his wife, Nicole. He also filmed parts of his series Lawmen: Bass Reeves in North Texas in 2023.

A Texas cowboy through and through, Sheridan is the creator of the award-winning series Yellowstone, its prequels 1883 and 1923, and a forthcoming one reportedly called 1944, starring fellow Texan Matthew McConaughey.

The only question left is: Will Texas get to host the big Landman red-carpet premiere, as Fort Worth did for the Yellowstone Season 5 premiere in November 2022? Stay tuned.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.