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Alumni Spotlight

UH Law Center alumna Tubergen ’21 recognized in national legal writing competition

Bethany Bonsu

Jenelle Tubergen, a 2021 graduate of the University of Houston Law Center.

June 8, 2021 – Recent University of Houston Law Center graduate Jenelle Tubergen was notified by the Institute for Energy Law of The Center for American and International Law that her article focusing on the environmental impact of lithium batteries had been named as a finalist in the 2021 Hartrick Scholar Writing Competition.

“I’m not surprised Jenelle’s article was chosen as a finalist for this scholarship,” said Gina Warren, the George Butler Research Professor and co-director of the Environment, Energy & Natural Resources Center. “It’s an interesting and thought-provoking piece that exposes some startling problems with life cycle of lithium batteries and offers ideas for minimizing harms to humans and the environment.”

Tubergen’s winning paper, “Is Lithium Really That Lit? A Life Cycle Analysis of Lithium-Ion Batteries,” depicted each stage of battery development, ranging from the gathering and utilization of raw elements to the disposal or reuse of a battery and how it could be a closed loop cycle.

“Almost 99 percent of lithium batteries can be utilized to extract the raw chemicals from them and then be reused,” Tubergen said. “Once the market is fully saturated with lithium-ion batteries, if people take the time to recycle them, they will almost never have to go into landfills, which is one of the main areas most harmful to the environment, essentially eliminating the raw extraction and disposal.”

The worldwide competition focused on any topic related to energy development, prompting innovation and creativity in diverse subjects such as oil and gas law, alternative energy resources, energy regulation and environmental regulation of the energy industries.

“I noticed that lithium-ion batteries are exponentially almost doubling in growth yearly,” Tubergen said. “That is going to be something that is really important to our future, especially as we are moving into a more sustainable phase of life.”

As a finalist, Tubergen was able to virtually attend the Institute for Energy Law’s 72nd Annual Oil and Gas Law three-day conference in April, listening to leaders in energy speak on educational programming, developmental growth and discussion about critical developments in oil, gas and energy law.

“I took Professor Gina Warren’s Energy Law class the first semester of my 3L year where I wrote my paper,” Tubergen said. “She sent us competition notifications throughout the year of possible competitions we could submit our writing to and was very encouraging.”

Tubergen was selected to begin working with global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright’s business transaction group in October and will try various specializations onsite before assigned a target area of practice.