New Energy Practice Leader Reflects On Industry

By Lew Bullion, Senior Editor | March 2009 Vol. 236 No. 3

Paul O'Rourke of LECG

Paul O’Rourke recently was named head of the energy practice for worldwide expert services firm LECG. He has more than 30 years of experience in energy consulting.

His work includes extensive experience in North America, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific. Based in the firm’s office in Cambridge, MA he has managed energy practices at Putnam, Hayes & Bartlett, CRA International, and Booz Allen Hamilton since 1985.

P&GJ: Where did you grow up and when did you become interested in your discipline as a career?

O’Rourke: I grew up in Grand Rapids, MI and moved to California for my senior year in high school. My father received a great job offer in San Francisco, so the whole family moved to the Bay Area. After two years, my parents moved back to Detroit after another promotion for my dad, but I stayed in California to finish my undergraduate work at Stanford in chemistry.

In ninth grade, I needed to write an essay on what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I chose aeronautical engineering, only because it was near the front of the index cards in the school library. Although I spent a lot of class time with engineers, ultimately I tended more toward economics and finance in my graduate studies at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

P&GJ: What was the career path that led to your position with LECG?

O’Rourke: I’ve managed and grown consulting energy practices for the past 30 years, initially as a young associate at Booz Allen & Hamilton, and later at well-known economic and management consulting firms like CRA International and Putnam, Hayes & Bartlett, Inc. I had seriously considered semi-retiring in spring 2008, but Bill Hamm (head of the Economics Services Business Segment at LECG) and Michael Jeffrey (CEO) convinced me that LECG was re-defining itself in new and innovative ways, and I wanted to be a part of that transition.

P&GJ: What brought you into the energy industry?

O’Rourke: In the late 1970s, I was interested in understanding how public policy intersected with energy issues. In the U.S., we had gone through curtailments and embargoes, we had delays and cost over-runs at nuclear plants (and shortly thereafter TMI-2), and we had a growing sense of the importance of conservation and renewable energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

During my first year at Booz Allen, I worked on a dizzying array of public sector and private sectors engagements, ranging from helping to draft white papers and options analyses for federal agencies that led to five major pieces of energy legislation in 1978, to working with the Coca Cola Company and Ryder Systems Inc. on how to hedge their price risk for power and diesel fuel. I also helped implement a number of federally mandated programs within state agencies.

P&GJ: The petroleum industry is known for its cyclical nature. Where are we in terms of the next cycle?