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An Energetic Debate

Nick Loris '06 photoIf you want to debate the pros and cons of fracking, the Keystone XL pipeline or the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, Nicolas Loris '06 is ready to go.

Loris, an economist and policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., researches, writes and speaks about energy, and environmental and regulatory issues. In the process of poring over congressional bills and looking up gas prices, he has become a familiar face espousing the free-market advocacy of the influential foundation.

"We have had a lot of ideas turn into legislation," Loris notes.

Loris is the prodigious author of articles and background briefs on a wide range of energy topics, contributing to the public discourse on: energy and the environment; climate change; energy policy; coal, oil and natural gas; and renewable energy. His conservative viewpoint is evident in recent posts to the foundation's web site, including "U.S. Natural Gas Exports: Lift Restrictions and Empower the States,""Cap-and-Trade for Cars Means Higher Prices and Less Choice for Car Buyers" and"War on Coal: A House Bill to Stop the Regulatory Assault."

Loris also gets into the trenches with the press, being interviewed and quoted by both conservative and liberal media outlets. For example, he can be seen discussing international spending on green energy with Gerri Willis of Fox News, opining on wind energy credits to Richard Harris on NPR, and chatting up The New York Times on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of carbon dioxide emissions.

Perhaps most challenging, he can also be heard explaining his job as a policy analyst at a think tank to people outside of the Washington, D.C., bubble. "People say, 'What the heck is that?'" Loris says.

Intro to economics. His journey to punditry began in his freshman year at Albright, in Dr. Lisa Wilder's "Principles of
Economics" class, which was Loris' first economics course and one of many classes he took with Wilder over the next four years.

With widely differing outlooks, the conservative Loris and liberal Wilder often fell into debate.

"Nick and I have very different views on the rights and responsibilities of a government," explains Wilder, who has taught at Albright for 11 years. "There's an endless supply of issues where the role and impact of government comes up, so we never ran out of things to talk about. Nick was not afraid of presenting his opinions."

Despite their differences, Wilder chose Loris to be a student mentor in Albright's freshman seminar series. "I knew Nick would be an approachable role model for entering freshman with his quest for learning and his ability to balance so many different activities," she says. "It didn't hurt that we had quite a few freshman soccer players – Nick's passion outside of the classroom – in the class."

Loris teamed up with Wilder on an Albright Creative Research Experience (ACRE) project, which provides approved student researchers with a stipend and room and board during the summer or interim sessions. He spent a summer working one-on-one with Wilder to research wage disparity between the former East and West Germany and write a paper on his findings. He and Wilder then presented the paper at the Eastern Economic Association's Applied Business and Economic Conference.

During his time at Albright, Loris was a member of the Dearden Business Honor Society and the Teacher Selection Committee. He received the Josh Laychock Award in Finance and the Economics Departmental Distinction Award, and made the Dean's List each semester. Outside the classroom, Loris played varsity soccer, serving as captain his junior and senior years, and varsity tennis. He says he keeps in touch with his teammates and other friends, including his roommate for all four years, Bill Reilly '06.

Reilly, who majored in Spanish/French/digital media at Albright, lives in Osaka, Japan, where he runs an English/Japanese improv comedy group.

The biggest source of contention between roommates Nicolas Loris '06 and Bill Reilly '06 may have been made the way Loris made a tuna fish sandwich.

He notes Loris was and still is never overbearing with his opinions. "Nick gives [his opinion] clearly when asked and always took the time to listen to mine," says Reilly. "He was always polite no matter what the topic."

In fact, the biggest source of contention between the roommates may have been the way Loris made a tuna fish sandwich. "He would come home from soccer practice, take two pieces of white bread, barely spread on a splotch of mayo and then just empty a can of tuna unmixed upside down onto the bread and then start eating," Reilly says. "I couldn't fathom how anyone could disrespect the process of a tuna sandwich as much as Nick Loris."

Asked for a rebuttal, Loris says diplomatically, "Bill's process created more dishes whereas mine was more streamlined. I think that says it all."

D.C.-Bound. After graduating from Albright with a bachelor's degree in economics, finance and political science, Loris worked as an associate at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation in Arlington, Va., before joining the Heritage Foundation as a research assistant in 2007. He moved up to policy analyst in 2008, the same year he earned a master's degree in economics from George Mason University. Loris also found time to teach economic classes at Northern Virginia Community College in 2010 and 2011.

The Heritage Foundation, a public policy research institute, states that it aims"to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and a strong national defense." Loris says he "kind of fell into energy policy" when he started at the foundation; now he researches and writes about energy prices and other economic effects of environmental policies and regulations for the foundation's Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.

Last May, Loris was named the foundation's Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow. The fellowship was endowed by retired real estate developer Herbert Morgan and his late wife.

Loris is frequently in the public eye, commenting on energy issues in numerous print and electronic media outlets. The Heritage Foundation has a studio at its headquarters where staff members conduct mock interviews and other media training. Preparing to appear on television and radio is a "grueling process," Loris admits.

In his free time, Loris spends time with his girlfriend, plays soccer and is training for a marathon. "There is no shortage of things to do in D.C.," he notes.

How to Argue. His economics mentor remains one of Loris' favorite sparring partners. "I can get in an argument with Dr. Wilder on Facebook," he chuckles.

For her part, Wilder says that even when she has a different point of view, she still respects how Loris makes his arguments. "I think we both find it enlightening and exciting to be able to talk about things we care about with someone who cares about the same topics but sees the world differently," she says. She sees Loris as a kind of educator in his position at the Heritage Foundation, noting that"he has a nuanced understanding of complex issues."

While Loris continues to develop his rhetorical skills, he points out that engaging in a debate is more challenging than ever these days because Congress and the nation have become so polarized on important issues. "It's getting more difficult to have discussions," he notes. "We tend to talk past one another."

The key, he says, is to stay curious and open to learning. "For me, it's staying informed, reading up on both sides and to understand why people think the way they do," says Loris. "Too often we've already decided what to think."

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