Of the 482 students in Murry Gerber’s graduating class at an inner-city Chicago high school, only 25 would go on to college. He was one of them, so he knows a little bit about beating the odds.
“I’m one of the luckiest people in America,” Gerber told a packed audience of MBA students as part of the Tepper School’s W.L. Mellon Speaker Series.
Gerber, who majored in geology, is the former chief executive officer and current executive chairman of EQT Corp. With the discovery and proposed development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation, EQT has quickly gravitated toward the epicenter of the nation’s quest for energy security. It’s a position the company is well-prepared to occupy, Gerber says.
“The center of the natural gas world has come back to where the first well was drilled,” says Gerber, referring to western Pennsylvania. “We don’t see the end to this.”
Though he acknowledges that natural gas has some opponents, including those who champion what he considers unfavorable tax policies and critics of the hydraulic fracturing extraction process, Gerber believes gas is a resource to be reckoned with, as is his company.
“It was attention to the details of making something out of nothing that made EQT what it is today,” he says. “The way to win is to be at the low end of the cost curve.”
According to Gerber, EQT enjoys the lowest cost structure in the U.S. for natural gas, and he is proud of his commitment to research and development.
“You have to generate a culture that is going to innovate,” he says. “Anybody can cut costs. You do not have to have a Carnegie Mellon Tepper School MBA.”
But it is technology that will make a difference, he notes. Current methods only extract about 30 percent of the natural gas found in shale, for example; the company that finds more efficient means can build its profit margins.
Some factors, such as public policy, factor into all energy companies’ game plans. With no clear national energy strategy, the country lacks the initiative to change its dependence on foreign oil — and everybody knows it, he says.
“Republicans, Democrats, I don’t care who you are,” he says. “You’re all bad when it comes to this … My question is, can we unlock the gridlock?”
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Q&A Video with Murry Gerber