Christopher Smith, assistant secretary for fossil energy , U.S. Department of Energy, courtesy photo.

Christopher Smith, assistant secretary for fossil energy , U.S. Department of Energy, courtesy photo.

The University of Texas at Austin is hosting UT Energy Week today through Friday with important discussions on regulations, fracking, cities of the future, water initiatives, renewable energy sources and all of the challenges facing the oil and gas industry.

The United States still leads the world when it comes to innovations in the energy industry, said Christopher Smith, assistant secretary for Fossil Energy with the U.S. Department of Energy. But it does face increasing global competition, he said during his keynote address.

A real need exists for innovations to control emissions, Smith said. There’s an opportunity for UT to be at the forefront of those innovations, he said.

The clean energy economy of the future can be broken down into two type of countries, Smith said. There will be countries that innovate and create energy solutions, he said. The other countries will buy those innovations, he said.

It’s not just a moral issue, Smith said. The U.S. must ensure that the innovations and the solutions for the clean energy economy are happening here, he said.

The energy industry is a huge industry of great importance to Texas, which leads the nation in oil and gas production. It is also rapidly developing its wind technology and leads the nation in producing wind generated electricity. But the drop in the price of oil from $100 a barrel a year ago to around $28 today, affects the Texas economy. The oil industry here has seen a slow down in production and lots of layoffs of workers in the oil field. But the Texas economy has diversified in the last three decades and is not as slammed as it was in the 1980s when a glut of oil hit the market, demand dropped and Texas suffered from a major oil industry bust.

UT Energy Week is a conference focused on “world-class energy research taking place at UT, according to Thomas F. Edgar, director of the University’s Energy Institute.

“We’re known for our research into fossil fuels, but this conference illustrates that we do a lot more,” he said in a news statement.

The conference kicked off at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center Tuesday morning with remarks from UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves, followed by Smith’s keynote. In the afternoon, panels focus on examining Mexico’s recent entry into the world of competitive electric markets.

The conference also features a Startup Competition, organized by the Longhorn Energy Club, on Thursday with cash awards and prizes in four categories: Oil and Gas, CleanTech, Energy and Water Efficiency and Software.