Getting the Green Conversation Started
From policy to engagement
The government is expected to invest some $150 billion in new technologies over the next 10 years everywhere you look the Green Economy is being touted as one of the strongest areas for expected job growth. But what will these initiatives mean for African American professionals and business owners?
To answer that question Black Enterprise gathered top-level executives from businesses and organizations within the energy industry in Washington DC today to discuss how African Americans can participate in the implementation of President Barack Obama’s green initiatives, and to talk about career opportunities in the green/energy sectors.
With the support of Shell, and the assistance of organizations such as The Executive Leadership Council, and the American Association of Blacks in Energy, Black Enterprise was able to gather a “who’s who” of experts with long-standing careers in the energy industry for a. Prior to the event, I had the opportunity to mingle with the panelists and invited participants, and it was evident to me that the lack of African American executives in the industry has created a small fraternity of long-time friends who often agree to disagree on several issues.
During her opening remarks, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Stephanie Owens, laid out Obama’s energy plans, and called on the private sector to hold the government accountable in implementing these plans. (Administrator Lisa Jackson was scheduled to appear, but was in Delaware attending the funeral for Vice President Joe Biden’s mother.)
“Lisa Jackson understands that African Americans have long been a part of what we call ‘green space’—we just haven’t called it that,” said Owens.
Tracy Faulkner, vice president of communications for Shell Oil Co., in her remarks made it clear that her corporation was extremely excited to participate in the event. “It is critical that Shell participates in these types of conversations,” she said. “And it is even more exciting when I can attend an event where I am labeled as a friend.”
Alfred A. Edmond Jr., SVP/Editor-in-Chief Interactive, BE moderated the first panel, “Moving from Policy to Engagement” and led panelists in a spirited discussion on how it is important not to lose sight of the actual problems – energy production and consumption — we are trying to solve.
“We often lose sight of the actual problem,” said panelist Gaurdie E. Banister Jr., president and CEO of Aera Energy LLC. “People often get hooked on the ‘green jobs’ phenomenon, but we are really trying to balance our energy production while moving towards energy security. Over 60% of the oil we consume comes from over seas—I want encouragement to produce here in our country,” he said.
He added that “transitioning” into a new energy strategy will pose the biggest challenge.
“Many Americans are worried about CO2, but steadily filling their cars with gasoline,” he said. Gaurdie’s company produces about 30% of the oil and gas in the state of California and contributes billions of tax dollars to the state.
The panelists stressed the importance of understanding that the solution will be multifaceted, and probably not occur during our lifetime. They were also in agreement that it will most likely be economic factors that will drive policies and ultimately encourage new strategies.
Many of the “friendly” disagreements carried-on into lunch—which is exactly what the event was intended to do.
After the first session, I realized that it is very important for the voices of African Americans to be heard in the new energy dialogue. And while there may be several different messages coming from these voices, we should not lose sight of the overall goals of producing cleaner energy that supplies our country’s needs. African Americans should also be prepared for a long conversation that will ultimately bring drastic changes to the generations that follow.
André Williams is the founder and principal consultant of Energy Relations. He has over 11 years experience providing consultation in the energy, environmental, and government sectors.