Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Matt Simmons embodied integrity

What I remembered first when I learned that Matthew R. Simmons died at his summer home in Maine on Aug. 8 was the anguish in his voice when we spoke by telephone in early 2001 as it became increasingly clear that Enron Corp.’s problems extended to other companies and businesses.

“It’s truly awful,” he said when I mentioned my dismay that the so-called Chinese Wall between investment banks’ research and marketing departments had simply disappeared. “It will take years, if not decades, for our business to regain the trust it has lost. I’m not certain that it ever will.”

Trust mattered a lot to Matt Simmons. Several years before, when his brother, L.E., bought a share of another trade publication I worked for, the two of them tracked me down during the Offshore Technology Conference because I had cited a Simmons & Co. International report in one of my stories. They weren’t satisfied until I assured them I’d used the material because it was good, and not because it came from a company run by the brother of one of the newspaper’s new owners.

I saw Matt frequently in Washington at trade association and government events. Often, he would be on his way out the door to get to the White House or Department of Energy for meetings, yet he always made time to talk. His concerns about the actual extent of Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves still make some people nervous. They deserve to be taken seriously because his track record on other issues is so good.

When he started the Ocean Energy Institute after he retired from the helm of what probably is Houston’s most successful energy investment bank, Matt made OEI a venture capital fund as well as a think-tank to address the challenges of US offshore renewable energy.

“OEI approaches energy R&D and investment from a systems point of view; not just generation, but usage, storage and transmission all together as an interdependent set of opportunities and the next driving force of the international economy,” its web site notes. “OEI is working to coordinate the diverse factors that will help make ocean energy a reality: energy system architecture, offshore wind technology, environmental interests, stakeholder concerns, industrial partners, academic research, financial firepower and political factors.”

“Oceans are the last energy frontier, yet we know so little about how to harness them,” he said. “The Ocean Energy Institute’s mission is to quickly fill this knowledge void and let our oceans supply us the energy that fossil fuels have provided for the last hundred years.” Others share that vision but aren’t working out specific solutions. Matt and other thoughtful men and women began to do something about it. They will continue the work he started. More information about OEI is available online at www.oceanenergy.org.

2 Comments:

Blogger Lillibet said...

This is a true article that embodies Matt's philosophies. Thank you. I have a bias. I am his little sister, and he was a great role model. We will miss him terribly.

August 10, 2010 at 8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank You Mr. Simmons,

To you, I'm just an anonymous face. To me, you were fatherly; you struck me as being a person who cared about the future of everyone's children. I followed your media appearances very closely. You are a very inspiring and admirable individual.

Despite the adversities that our (global) community face, you always made me feel that tomorrow can be better than today, if we just put our minds and our efforts to it.

Before learning about your work, I was just a biologist studying how life functions. After learning about your work, I'm a biologist who wants to make life better. I hope to facilitate the development of renewable resources soon.

--Best

August 11, 2010 at 2:00 AM  

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