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President Ford's 'Energy Czar' to Launch Public Energy Series in Grand Rapids

September 6, 2011

President Gerald R. Ford's "Energy Czar," Frank G. Zarb, will launch the first-ever Gerald R. Ford Energy Lecture Series on September 20 in Grand Rapids.

The series, sponsored by Varnum and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, will address current U.S. energy issues and highlight Ford's foundational contributions to U.S. energy policy. Zarb, who served as Ford's assistant to the president for Energy Affairs, worked with the president to develop the nation's first national energy policy. He will kick off the series by sharing "Our Most Important Policy Failure – Energy" at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum at 7:30 p.m.

During his presidency, Ford signed legislation that established the framework for a national energy policy and alternative energy research. Triggered by the aftermath of the 1973 oil embargo, the importance for the United States to develop a national energy policy became clear to President Ford. He selected Zarb to serve as his energy advisor, and Zarb later became known as the "Energy Czar."

“Looking back on the development or U.S. energy policy, President Ford clearly started the alternative-energy ball rolling," said Bruce Goodman, Alternative Energy Practice Team leader at Varnum. "His response to the oil embargo and gasoline crisis led him to a prescient focus on renewable and sustainable energy. We are now benefiting from what he put in motion.”

Under Zarb's counsel and Ford's leadership, the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) was established and was followed by a series of ambitious acts, including the Solar Heating and Cooling Act of 1974, the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 and the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act.

"Shortly after Dad's death, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, in an op-ed entitled The First Energy President, praised the energy initiatives of Dad's Administration," said Susan Ford Bales, Gerald R. Ford's daughter. "Friedman concluded that those initiatives and their blueprint for America's energy independence were 'way ahead of their time.' The visionary architect of those policies was Frank Zarb, Dad's 'Energy Czar'."

After serving in the Ford Administration, Zarb filled various roles under the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations. He's also held numerous economic and public service positions, including chairman and CEO of the NASD, chairman and CEO of NASDAQ Stock Market Inc., and chair of Long Island Power Authority. Currently, Zarb is a senior advisor to Hellman & Friedman LLC; a non-executive chairman of Promontory Financial Group; and an executive in residence at Columbia University.

"In addition to being one of Dad's most trusted advisers, Frank's numerous accomplishments in the private sector and his public policy work since his service in the Ford Administration are extraordinary," Bales said. "Frank remains one of the foremost experts on energy policy. His most recent insights and policy proposals are as significant today as those he developed for Dad nearly four decades ago."

Alternative energy development and energy issues have resurfaced as a major national and international issues. The Gerald R. Ford Energy Lecture Series will address where our nation is thirty-four years later by providing various historical and current perspectives on U.S. alternative energy policies.

The series is underwritten by Varnum and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. Admission is free and open to the public, but due to limited seating guests are requested to RSVP to the Foundation by e-mail at or by phone at 616-254-0393.

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