David Spence - The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business. Austin, TX, US

David Spence David Spence

Professor, Department of Business, Government and Society | The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

Austin, TX, US
Business and public policy, business law and regulation, energy and the environment



Areas of Expertise (11)

Corporate Social Responsibility Fracking Environmental Policy and Law Energy Policy and Law Business Law Government Regulation of Business Business Ethics Climate Change Renewable Energy Sustainability Green Policies

Industry Expertise (7)

Energy Public Policy Environmental Services International Trade and Development Judiciary Oil and Gas Utilities


David Spence is an educator, attorney, and expert speaker on business and governmental relations and regulation, particularly energy and environmental regulation, including topics such as the hydraulic fracturing debate. He studies and speaks on topics of ethics and corporate social responsibility, business law, and environmental law.

Spence is a professor in the business, government and society department at the McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin, and he teaches energy law at the UT School of Law.

He has taught as a visitor at the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment, the Vanderbilt Law School, the Cornell Law School, Harvard Law School, IMADEC University in Vienna, Austria, and the Bren School of the Environment at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Spence is a prominent researcher published in numerous top tier legal journals including the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Texas Law Review, and the California Law Review. He has also published in peer-reviewed journals, including the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, and the Public Administration Review. He is co-director for regulation and policy, the Energy Management & Information Center, and is on the board of advisors of Ethics Unwrapped.

His public outreach includes expert commentary and op-eds in the Houston Chronicle, UT Law Grid Commentary, Dallas Morning News, San Francisco Chronicle, Austin American-Statesman, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Spence has earned the CIBER Award for the best "internationalized" course for Energy Law, and is a frequent winner of the McCombs School MBA Teaching Honor Roll.



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Testimonials (1)

David Wenger, Director of Communications | McCombs School of Business

David Spence refuses to be drawn to sides in the debate over energy policy and regulation, choosing instead to be the illuminating voice of fact and reason. His expertise in political science, law, energy and the environment allows him to speak relevantly on today's most volatile conversations about business and public policy.

Education (3)

Duke University: Ph.D., Political Science 1997

University of North Carolina School of Law: J.D., Law 1984

Chapel Hill, NC

Gettysburg College: B.Sc., History 1980

Magna Cum Laude. Honoraries: Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Lambda Sigma, Phi Alpha Theta.

Media Appearances (13)

Poll Finds Millennials More Concerned About Energy and the Environment

The Daily Texan  online


Although energy and environmental issues are still mainly partisan among older Americans, younger voters are overall more concerned about climate change, according to a UT survey. “Support for the notion that climate change is happening and driven by humans has always been higher among younger people than older people,” Spence said. “You see that split particularly among Republicans and conservatives.”

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Texas Power Players Sit Out Political Opposition To Clean Power Plan

NPR  online


"It's a contradiction," says David Spence, a professor of energy regulation at UT Austin. "It seems as though political ideology is driving a lot of the positions being taken by states and state institutions ... because clearly Texas will sell a lot of natural gas to a lot of power plants all over the country, who will be generating more often because of the Clean Power Plan, yet we are opposing the Clean Power Plan."

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In Energy Politics, Simple Wins, But Simple is Usually Wrong

HuffPost Politics  online


Nationally, fracking has made natural gas cheap, and so we are burning less coal (and killing fewer people) — for now. But make no mistake: Coal is not dead, despite what you might have heard, says McCombs Professor David Spence.

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The Clean Power Plan: Let the Litigation Games Begin

Huffington Post  online


Although a good, sound policy, the president's Clean Power Plan -- the rule regulating greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants -- will unleash a torrent of litigation rivaling that following the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Most major environmental rules generate legal challenges, but there are three reasons why this one will generate a litigation tsunami.

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Historic Clean Power Plan To Impact Texas

KEYE  tv


“So because of that opportunity to switch Texas is being required to do more than average share of the reduction,” said David Spence, law and regulation professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Spence said despite this downfall, the plan will produce more jobs in Texas.

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In Texas, an Unlikely Battleground Over Frackiing

The Wall Street Journal  print


“I expect to see lots of these” clashes, says David Spence, a professor of law and business at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Why Lower Crude Prices Are Good for the Oil Industry

Houston Chronicle  online


David Spence, a professor of law, politics and regulation at the University of Texas at Austin's Energy Institute, reminded me that despite recent sustained prices of $100 a barrel, prices are still high.

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Cuomo's No-Decision Approach to Energy and the Environment

Capital  online


“Politically it seems to be a fairly tried-and-true strategy, especially if you have presidential ambitions—you don't make decisions that can come back to haunt you,” said Spence.

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Can Your Town Ban Fracking? Depends on the State

The Christian Science Monitor  print


“These bans are springing up all over the place,” says David Spence, a professor of law, politics, and regulation at the University of Texas at Austin, in a telephone interview Friday.

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North Carolina Senate Votes to Make Disclosure of Fracking Chemicals Illegal

Insurance Journal  online


U.S. public opinion is divided on fracking, with hundreds of local jurisdictions banning it, said Spence. Opting to punish disclosure of information could fuel people’s fears.

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Fracking Pits State vs. Locals

The Houston Chronicle  online


Community voices are being raised in protest as local residents find themselves at odds with both natural gas developers and state laws, policies and economic interests.

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Colorado court takes up local laws limiting fracking

Market Place Sustainability  online


According to law professor David Spence at the University of Texas-Austin, cities and towns get fewer benefits from fracking than costs, including air pollution, water risks and truck noise.“In the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas,” Spence said, “local governments have no power to tax the trucks that drive over their small local rural roads and essentially destroy them over time.”

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Why America’s power grid needs natural gas now more than ever

Fortune  online


Now that the Obama administration has finalized its Clean Power Plan regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the power sector, the focus of attention turns to the states, which must now find a way to reduce emissions consistent with the Plan. One question states face as they envision a lower carbon future is how much to rely on natural gas-fired generation.

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Event Appearances (6)

EPA's Clean Power Plan

Central Texas Association for Energy Economics and UT Energy Institute  Workshop: The University of Texas at Austin


The Regulatory Contract in the Marketplace

UCLA School of Law, Climate Change Seminar  Los Angeles, CA


State-Local Conflict Over Hydraulic Fracturing

University of California at Berkeley School of Law Presentation  Berkeley, CA


The Energy-Environment Nexus

Stegner Symposium, University of Utah College of Law  Salt Lake City, UT


Smart Grid Regulatory Barriers

Searle Center Conference, Northwestern University School of Law  Chicago, IL


Panel Moderator, Risks and Rewards of More Texas Wind and Solar

SXSW Eco Conference  Austin, TX


Articles (6)

David B. Spence Citations
Google Scholar


Listing of top scholarly works by David B. Spence.

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Responsible Shale Gas Production: Moral Outrage Vs. Cool Analysis
Fordham Environmental Law Review


A look at the political conflict surrounding shale gas production.

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Federalism, Regulatory Lags, and the Political Economy of Energy Production
University of Pennsylvania Law Review


This article takes a policy-neutral approach to the federalism questions at the center of the shale gas production controversy.

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Sarbanes-Oxley As Quack Corporate Governance: How Wise Is the Received Wisdom
Georgetown Law Journal


This article demonstrates that the current dominant view that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) is wholly unsupported by the academic literature is misguided.

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The Shadow of the Rational Polluter: Rethinking the Role of Rational Actor Models in Environmental Law
California Law Review


Examining the debate between the traditional view that environmental regulators must deter pollution through the imposition of fines and penalties, and the view that regulatory systems are overly complex and unnecessarily punitive.

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The Law, Economics, and Politics of Federal Preemption Jurisprudence: A Quantitative Analysis
California Law Review


Federal preemption case law under the Supremacy Clause and dormant Commerce Clause has been marked by a high degree of conflict and controversy.

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Contact David Spence