Dr. Daniel Fine, scholar and international energy market expert, dead at 88

John R. Moses
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON – Services were Monday in Albuquerque for international energy industry expert and Farmington Daily Times columnist Dr. Daniel Fine, 88, who died Sept. 26 in a Miami hospital following complications due to a surgical procedure, his son, William Fine, said.

Fine, widely acknowledged as an expert in world energy markets and geopolitics, was held in high esteem by many state and regional business leaders. He had been set to give a lecture alongside local businessman T. Greg Merrion in Farmington last month.

“He was pretty great at getting a read at what was coming down the pike,” said Merrion, who recently retired as head of Merrion Oil & Gas. Merrion attended the private memorial service along with Fine’s immediate family and guests that included some legislators and people involved in the state’s energy industries.

Merrion noted Fine’s recent participation in getting the region a Department of Transportation grant to study rail service.

That was one of many projects Fine signed onto during the years he was active in New Mexico’s state government as an energy policy coordinator for former Gov. Susana Martinez, and, later, assisting in other projects.

He lectured in Farmington most recently this summer, discussing developments in the energy markets and Russia's war with Ukraine before an audience in the Henderson Fine Arts Center at San Juan College organized by the nonprofit organization Four Corners Economic Development.

Fine was to address a broad range of national and international issues affecting politics and energy supply, as well as future economic opportunities for the Four Corners region at a forum last month.

“That’s a loss,” said Four Corners Economic Development CEO Arvin Trujillo.

“We really enjoyed his discussions here,” Trujillo said, noting Fine’s ability to let people know what to look out for. “He just had a way to really connect the dots.”

Trujillo said he and Fine would have long conversations, not just about economics but about family and life experiences, such as Fine’s acquaintance with civil rights leader Martin Luther King. Trujillo had urged him to sit down with someone and record his experiences for posterity.

Daniel Fine

“He had a tremendous desire to see what he could do for the Four Corners region,” Trujillo said, and he said Fine also had a track record of connecting with tribal governments and agencies.

When the opportunity came along to apply for a grant to study building a rail line between Gallup and the Four Corners region, Trujillo said Fine’s connections helped by “connecting us with the right people, he just had such a wide network.”

Fine spent 10 days in a hospital’s intensive care unit following a surgical procedure and suffered two heart attacks, William Fine said.

Although he was ill, Fine didn’t forget about his commitment to speak at the Four Corners event.

“He remembered his lecture, even in the midst of that,” Fine said.

Fine had been expected to recover prior to serious complications arising, and William Fine said his father had a strong will to live. “He wanted to hold on. He had no desire to die.”

William Fine said his father could have gone into government leadership roles during his long career but preferred his work as a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his alma mater.

“He took a more engaging role in the world, and trying to improve it,” William Fine said.

As for his father’s work and his insights into world and domestic energy markets and geopolitics, William Fine said his father’s views of developing trends and events were “just always right on.”

A familiar voice is stilled

Fine was a well-known analyst and sought-after speaker and news source. His columns in the Daily Times and its Energy magazine drew online readers from as far away as the Middle East’s oil-producing countries.

Video of his recent presentation is posted online.

World war, and preventing that outcome, was on his mind as he discussed Russia's history and the conflict in Ukraine.

"I take a simple position. I say everything I'm doing now and thinking is to prevent the third world war, to prevent us from being victim to a third world war, which would be missiles and nuclear," he said during his June 21 speech.

He traveled far and wide throughout his life.

During the fall of the Soviet Union and birth of the Russian Federation he was in Moscow nailing down a copper mining contract and witnessing the historic transition. He wrote about that, and the actions happening in Ukraine, in a recent Daily Times column.

“I was in Moscow pursuing a lease to the second largest copper deposit in the world and at the celebration of the birth of the Russian Federation as the prime power in the CIS, or Community of Independent States,” Fine wrote in a Feb. 26 Daily Times column. “The ruling Ukraine Communist Party vanished as a remnant of the Soviet Union.

“A young missile commander at my side, over vodka on the roof of a state skyscraper (the tallest building), pointed to the West and told me no Russian would ever look in that direction and see NATO.”

As war clouds gathered early this year, Fine’s recent Daily Times columns gave an early look at the alliance growing between Russia and China and shed light on the kinds of banking restrictions that would be needed to impose meaningful sanctions on the Russian economy.

A distinguished resume

Fine was associate director of the New Mexico Center for Energy Policy when he moved to New Mexico and a senior policy analyst for the New Mexico State Department of Energy Minerals and Natural Resources. He was listed in a university staff roster as of June 2022 as special assistant to the vice president for research at New Mexico Tech.

Merrion said he met Fine when Fine was touring the state’s energy regions for the former governor, meeting with all sectors of the energy industry.

“I was really impressed by how well he was able to develop that energy policy,” Merrion said.

Merrion said Fine’s work led him to meet the leaders of the School of Energy at San Juan College and help to develop the San Juan Basin Energy Conference, a conference focused less on vendors and more on things like exploration and drilling and fracking practices and techniques.

“This was a little bit different kind of an energy conference,” Merrion said, and it paid off for the college .

“It was highly successful because it made a considerable amount of money for the college,” Merrion said. “It was successful in part because Dr. Fine was involved, and he was able to get some important speakers at the event.”

A biography posted by the John Locke Foundation, connected to a 2017 talk Fine gave about the then-incoming Trump administration’s energy policies, stated that he had been the State of New Mexico Coordinator for the Export of New Mexico Natural Gas to Mexico/Chihuahua.

He was also the co-editor of the 1980 book “The Resource War in 3-D: Dependency, Diplomacy, Defense: the Findings of 16 Nationally-prominent Experts Regarding U.S. Dependency on Imported Natural Resources,” and was a contributor to the publications Business Week and the Engineering and Mining Journal.

Daniel Fine, associate director of New Mexico Center for Energy Police at New Mexico Tech and a project leader of the Energy Police, State of New Mexico Department of Energy Minerals and Natural Resources speaks,  Tuesday, March 1, 2016, at San Juan College's Quality Center for Business in Farmington.

He participated in the Atlantic Council Workshop on Central Asian Energy Policy and the Hudson Institute Russia-United States Relations Project (Oil and Gas), the online biography noted.

He was also a member of the Director’s Advisory Board of the South Carolina Research Authority, the bio stated.

He was a contributor to the Harvard University Business School Study on Energy Futures.

“At MIT Dr. Fine participated in the World Oil Forum which consisted of OPEC/SAUDI ARAMCO, MIT and EXXON,” the online biography said. “In New Mexico, he was a guest speaker at the New Energy Summit Conference.”

Fine was no stranger to government panels on energy, having testified before the U.S. Senate Committees on Foreign Affairs and Energy and Natural Resources on the topic of on strategic natural resources.

The Hudson Institute in 2001 cited him as “a specialist in strategic minerals (who) has consulted with the Department of Defense, Harvard University, Congress and industry.”

While a research associate at MIT, Fine was among the Hudson Institute U.S. Russia-Relations Study Group participants conducting a congressional public briefing titled “Russia: Its Place in the Twenty-First Century and the Implications for the United States.” It was held in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Hearing Room in Washington, D.C.

At center, WPX Energy Vice-President Ken McQueen talks with New Mexico Tech Associate Director, New Mexico Center for Center for Energy Policy Daniel Fine, right on May 12, 2016 during the Four Corners Oil and Gas Conference at the McGee Park Convention Center in Farmington.

The John Locke Society bio also noted that he was a member of the Domestic Energy Production Issue Team of the Center For The Study Of The Presidency and Congress “Strengthening America’s Future Initiative,” as well as a member of the Department of Energy, Office of Naval Petroleum Reserves Ad Hoc Committee on U.S. Unconventional Fuels.

He also served as a guest speaker on World Oil and Natural Gas at the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Annual Conference in Oklahoma City, the bio said.

Dr. Fine and his wife, Helen, moved to New Mexico from Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 2015.

He is survived by his son, William Fine; daughter Sharon Zebede of Sunny Isles, Florida, and grandson, Hudson; and a brother, James "Jim" Fine of San Francisco. His wife, Helen, preceded him in death on March 1, 2022, in Albuquerque.