NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The most powerful individuals in the energy sector converged on Houston this week to exchange ideas and address the latest industry developments.
The most prestigious energy conference in the United States, IHS's CERAWeek, featured addresses by Chevron (CVX) CEO John Watson, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), TOTAL S.A. (TOT) CEO Christophe de Margerie, and others.
TheStreet sat down with many of the attendees to report the hottest topics facing the sector.
TransCanada (TRP) CEO Russ Girling, whose company control building of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, said he was frustrated by a Nebraska court's ruling that struck down their ability to build through the state.
Girling said the Keystone project enjoys the support of the majority of Americans. TransCanada's chief also said escalation in the Ukraine crisis will force suppliers to seek different locations for diversification.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) made her case for why the United States should lift its oil export ban. The senator also said Russia's movement into Ukraine demonstrates that the country is using its energy assets as a political lever.
TOTAL S.A. CEO Christophe de Margerie stopped by to discuss the latest ventures his company is tackling. De Margerie said it would be important to reduce operating expenses and control capital expenses. The chief executive said he's prepared for the challenges of the company's deep water South Africa project, and he reminded investors that the Ukraine crisis has no direct impact on the company's Yamal project in Russia. As for where de Margerie is personally excited for growth, he said, "Who cares?"
Canada is looking to diversify its markets for oil and gas. Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver called the European Commission's fuel quality directive unscientific, and one that disadvantages Canada unfairly. Oliver reiterated that the country wouldn't permit Chinese state owned enterprises to invest in the oil sands.
American Gas Association President Dave McCurdy said the Ukraine crisis has a serious effect on energy and political balance. He noted that calls from politicians in Congress for the U.S. to support natural gas exports wouldn't be enough to offset any Russian embargo disruptions.
American Enterprise Institute's Nicholas Eberstadt highlighted the growing social troubles that could hurt the energy industry in China, saying the sector will be exposed to China's social tender box.
And Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Commissioner Philip Moeller relayed the latest update to their suit against Barclays (BCS) for alleged energy contract trading manipulation, saying that he has no idea if the bank will choose to settle out of court. Moeller said he is bullish on its Order 1000, which he argued will expand the transmission system and lower prices to consumers in urban areas.
Whether it is natural gas, LNG or crude oil, the energy sector must still solve many of its rising cost issues and its environmental footprint. That, at least, was the central discussion at CERAWeek in 2014.