Cover Story – Alex Cranberg, Aspect Energy – Colorado Business Magazine   2 comments

Alex Cranberg - Aspect Energy

Treasure Hunt – For oil and gas entrepreneur Alex Cranberg, the path 
to sustainable energy leads to a hole in the ground.

Such moral imperatives drive Cranberg’s approach to renewable energy, which he says he values – Aspect Energy has made investments in wind technology – as long as those sources can be successful in the marketplace. And he doesn’t completely dismiss the notion that fossil fuels, like their renewable counterparts, have enjoyed subsidies – such as the protection of U.S. oil interests in the Middle East. But he says there’s no contest when you measure the return on investment between renewable sources and fossil fuels.

“I’m quite sure we’ll require our nation’s military to protect our security in all kinds of ways no matter what kind of energy policy we have,” he said. “I think certainly, though, the argument that we’re handing a lot of money essentially to bad guys in some other parts of the world like (Iranian president Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad or (Venezuelan president Hugo) Chavez is a very valid one. But it’s an argument for more domestic production and more exploration and production in friendly countries, not less.”

Cranberg’s company recently began drilling for oil in Iraq; it’s just beginning to assess the results of a well in Kurdistan. He offers up his smart phone to show an image of himself posing for a photo in Iraq: a businessman in a suit standing next to three men holding rifles.

“We’re one of the handful of American companies that is willing to take the political and economic risks to go into a region and invest our money to look for and find an oil field,” he said. “I feel that not only will it be profitable and commercial for us, but we’re a key piece of allowing the largest ethnic group in the world without its own autonomous region or country to finally meet its proper, positive destiny.

In measuring the value of alternative forms of energy, Cranberg uses the terminology that has been at the heart of that movement: whether they are sustainable. And some of them, to his mind, are not.

“They are not sustainable because they are not commercial. And we throw a lot of money at things,” he said. “That money represents resources, represents human capital resources, represents money, represents metal and materials and all the things that go into producing a solar cell or into producing a wind turbine. That’s all scarce resource. If we’re using more of that to produce the same kilowatt hour, I think that’s wasteful.”

Cranberg defines sustainable energy as that which can be generated most efficiently. “Sustainable energy is that which utilizes the fewest of our own resources to produce so we can have additional resources to spend on education and on health and vacations and other things that we value,” he said.

The jet set

The image of an executive with his own jet is enough to raise the ire of the working class stiff, corporate critic or outraged environmentalist who sees it as nothing but excess. Just ask those guys from General Motors who flew from Detroit to those congressional hearings or Al Gore every time he treks across the country to collect a paycheck at a speaking gig.

Cranberg is a principal investor in XJet, a business established at Centennial Airport four years ago that caters to jet owners by offering them private concierge services and discounted aviation fuel through a membership structure.

“I was astounded to find how much a low competition environment influenced fuel prices. It sort of made me mad that there was such a high margin. We went into looking for ways to be able to offer fuel at a lower cost. We ended up funding our own FBO (fixed based operator) and private jet center.”

For Cranberg, owning aircraft allows him the freedom to travel where and when he needs to do it. He uses Warren Buffett as an example of a businessman who views having a private jet in the same light: to get things done.

“I’ve been very interested in private aviation ever since I found I could afford an airplane and the freedom that comes attached with that,” he said.

Natural gas revolution

Cranberg has similar views about natural gas, which was touted as a “bridge fuel” by former Gov. Bill Ritter as he led the charge to prompt Xcel Energy to replace some of its aging coal plants with those that burn natural gas. Aspect Energy is active in natural gas exploration primarily in the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana and has been involved in shale projects that Cranberg said “have revolutionized the natural gas business in the United States.”

The 56-year-old Texas native spends much of his air time in one of his two private planes to shuttle back and forth between Denver and Austin, where he now resides, in part so he can be closer to his aging parents and to serve on the Board of Regents for the University of Texas.

“It’s a tremendous comment on this notion of abundance … that we essentially have found half a dozen of the largest gas fields in the world in the last few years at shallow depths that were right underneath our noses the whole time,” he said. “Where all we had to do was apply some technology and develop some expertise that allowed us to take some gas that was trapped in rocks that we thought was permanently trapped and suddenly liberate it to become the largest natural gas producer in the world.

“The U.S. spirit of creativity and entrepreneurial ambition and capacity to find gas can be applied in various different parts of the world,” he said. “And Central Europe really needs the investment of American companies because otherwise they are held hostage to Russian natural gas imports.”

Tisha Conoly Schuller, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, sees recent technological innovations, such as horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing, as having ramifications both nationally and internationally. On the national front, it will help increase domestic production and increase energy security. Internationally, it can help developing nations emerge from poverty. An estimated 1.4 billion to 1.6 billion people in the world don’t have electricity.

“These technological innovations really have the potential to transform energy consumption patterns but also to transform poverty because energy is really a cornerstone of bringing people out of poverty,” she said.

Cranberg’s work is in line with his world view that what he does for living is more than just generate profits from oil and gas extraction. For Hungary, the discovery of natural resources on its own turf helps preserve its independence as a nation.

“We’re very excited because we’re serving a bigger purpose in helping maintain these countries’ sovereignty,” he said.

Mike Cote is the editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

Read more: http://www.cobizmag.com/articles/treasure-hunt/

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2 responses to “Cover Story – Alex Cranberg, Aspect Energy – Colorado Business Magazine

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  1. Pingback: Alex Cranberg – Aspect Holdings, LLC – Chairman « Aspect Holdings, LLC

  2. Pingback: Experience and expertise « Aspect Holdings, LLC

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