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AABE Blog

Green Energy Jobs

April 28th, 2010

Recently, Congress examined federal policy toward energy production. Specifically, lawmakers debated the effectiveness of U.S. tax policy in promoting exploration and advancement of both new and traditional energy sources. While federal legislators deliberate how best to promote effective development of all energy sources, a few state officials will be examining similar questions.

In Ohio, for example, the state legislature will be putting certain energy companies to a test. The wind and solar industries will be asked to demonstrate whether they are able to create jobs that will be available to all segments of the American population, not just those who are highly educated, highly skilled, or advantageously connected.

The Ohio legislature’s lower house set both employment targets and contracting targets aimed at segments where the unemployment is highest and where business development is the lowest. House Bill 464 calls for a minority hiring target of 5% and a minority contracting target of 10% for the development, construction and operation of wind and solar projects in the state. Its companion legislation, Senate Bill 232, does not yet include similar language.

This debate’s significance stems, in part, from the President’s long expressed expectation that development and growth of the wind industry, the overall renewable energy industry, and the general development of a green economy will provide good paying jobs for Americans. Yet, our leaders have yet to seriously address whether that job growth will benefit African Americans and Latinos.

Reality is that these initiatives are not producing wealth or jobs for minority communities to the same degree that traditional energy sources have in the past.

Look again at the Buckeye State. If HB 464’s minority hiring and contracting target provisions endure further negotiations between the upper and lower houses, it will be the first time that any state has officially recognized that the wind industry is nearly devoid of any minority participation. Indeed, minority hiring and minority contracting that has resulted from wind energy’s remarkable growth across the country – in California, Montana, Colorado, Texas, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New York, Kansas, Minnesota, North and South Dakota – is very difficult to quantify with any degree of confidence. If available anecdotal information represents even a fraction of the larger picture, its minority employment is virtually non-existent.

The absence of minority participation in the wind industry may be no one’s fault, merely an extension of the historical and geographical realities that exist in this nation. It may well be that the wind blows best where the minority populations are the smallest, or in the parts of states where minority persons neither reside nor own property. In the case of Montana, Iowa, Colorado, and Kansas, this is possible. But in Texas, New York, Pennsylvania – it’s highly unlikely such geographic disparity explains the problem.

Focusing once again on Ohio, the minority population is nearly 17%. And the unemployment rate in the state’s minority communities is predicted to top 20% by the third quarter of this year. Given these facts, the 5% minority hiring target of HB 464 would appear to be a rather modest expectation. A minority hiring target set at less than one third of the minority population level in a state where the minority unemployment rate is nearly twice the overall national rate should be quite easy to achieve. In fact, one would expect it to occur naturally based on simple mathematics.

Yet, if just 5% of the wind industry workforce in Ohio were to come from minority communities, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans or Native Americans, the state’s minority employment in this industry would be several times larger than in any other state in these United States. That reality tells me that the status quo is failing our President’s test.

Let’s hope that legislators in the U.S. Congress and in states where similar disparities exist begin implementing this test as well. “Green” jobs will be most helpful if they are consistent with our national ideals of fairness and equality of opportunity. “Green” jobs will not be helpful if they further exacerbate our already intractable problems of racial and ethnic economic disparity.

Understanding the Politics and the Lessons Learned

April 21st, 2010

On March 31, 2010 President Obama acted to lift the ban on the exploration of offshore oil and gas and raised the possibility of the development of those resources off the east coast and in the eastern Gulf. Since that time many of the Washington pundits have sought to understand the importance of this action and to define what we in the energy business need to learn from this policy statement. Many of you will recall that nearly a month ago we shared that the administration would be taking action to support the development of off-shore energy resources.

From our perspective, the lessons to be learned are pretty clear. First we should understand that the President, although clearly recognizing our energy interdependence, is firmly committed to moving this nation toward greater energy independence in the areas of oil and gas. The President is also clear that this nation and this world will need to look to the fossil fuels for the majority of energy needs for many, many years to come. He is working both a near term strategy, a mid-term strategy, and a long term strategy; seeking the development of alternative fuels, insuring a sufficient supply of traditional fuels, and encouraging the research and technology needed for the development of a sustainable, diverse, clean energy portfolio.
The second thing that we should learn is that the President is willing to do what it takes to get climate change legislation passed. He said that he would reach out to the other party to have bipartisan support for an energy/climate change bill. By opening up off shore drilling, he has invited the members of the loyal opposition to join in the development of a new energy bill for the Nation.

This seems to have worked, and we are expecting to have a new, bipartisan bill introduced before the end of this month. If and when this new bill is available, I would strongly recommend that every AABE member who is interested in having a say in this most important legislation read as much of it as you can and share any thoughts, concerns, ideas, perceptions, or desires with each other, the Legislative and Public Policy Committee, and your Congressional representatives. The AABE has always aspired to be an energy policy voice for the minority communities. This is our best chance to fulfill that aspiration and ensure that our communities aren’t negatively impacted by national energy policy.

In about a month, the 33rd National Conference “People. Profit. Planet. An Inclusive Approach to a Bright Reliable Energy Future” will be in Columbus, Ohio. With climate change legislation on the horizon, this year’s “Legislative Crossfire” will be full of thought provoking ideas and robust discussion. Nationally recognized experts will be in attendance and eager to hear your thoughts on this legislation, legislation that will govern our industry and much of our nation for many years to come. It is time for AABE to step up to the plate.

The “Legislative Crossfire” session will not be the only event that should grab your attention. Every hour of every day will be filled with discussions of subjects, and issues and opportunities that these dynamic shifts in the energy industry are bringing forward. If you want to understand a bit more about the “Smart Grid”, about “Green Technologies”, about climate Change , about how these developments will impact your company, your job, your community then mark your calendar for May 19-21, 2010. This will be a conference not to be missed.

On March 22, the College of Engineering at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University honored the American Association of Blacks in Energy in a dinner ceremony in Greensboro. The award reads in part “In recognition of your world-class leadership in promoting and celebrating the achievements of Black Energy Professionals and for your continued efforts and contributions…” I want to let the AABE membership know just how grateful I am for the incredible growth in our organization’s reputation and stature which has come as a result of the myriad actions undertaken by our individual members to share AABE’s mission and message and with their associates and others in this broad and diverse industry. Thank you. Across this country and around the world, this association is known and respected for the abilities and capabilities of its outstanding membership. More and more, others are looking to AABE for its leadership and its guidance. “For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required.” (Luke 12:48)

We can do this!

Best,

Frank

Sharing Opportunities with You

March 1st, 2010

The events involving the national office this year continue at a pretty good pace as we plan for the first quarter board of directors meeting scheduled for March 18th. The Board will have a full agenda with the anticipation of substantive reports on the planning for the 2010 conference in Columbus, Ohio and the early plans for the 2011 Conference which will be held at a still to be determined site in the Northeastern region. There will be a report on the “Energy and Climate Change Summit” and an update on the AABE scholarship program. 

Today, more and more opportunities are presenting themselves for small businesses in the energy/environment sector.  As a result, there is a growing array of resources to help those who want to take the step into the entrepreneur world.  With the assistance of the Atlanta Chapter, the AABE has joined with the Morehouse College Entrepreneur Center (MCEC) in its efforts to engage the African American community about the business opportunities in the energy and environment sectors.  On February 25th, MCEC, the AABE, and the National Black MBA Association jointly supported a conference on campus that attracted business luminaries from far and wide.  Among those addressing the attendees was David Hinson, National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency who gave an outstanding presentation to let us all know how important small business development is to the economic future of our families and our communities.  Director Hinson will be speaking at the AABE national Convention in May. 

You will recall that in December of 2009, at the request of the US Department of Energy, we undertook a review of low-income housing in the nation of Morocco.  The final report will be submitted within the next few weeks, but even in advance of the completion of that assignment, the Association has been asked by Africa Ventures Partners to participate in a weeklong orientation to business opportunities in South Africa called “USA-SA Power Partnership Program”.  We have agreed to participate in this April 2-9 orientation program and to share the information provided in those meetings with the AABE membership, especially those who might be interested in partnering with South African companies on future projects.  

More recently,  the National Office has begun discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency to identify ways that the Association can better inform our communities about the issues faced by the Agency and the impact that those issues has on communities of color.  To date the discussions have been broadly exploratory, but we all hope to identify some areas that might be fruitful for long-term cooperation.  

I also had the opportunity to attend a briefing at the White House hosted by Secretary of Transportation LaHood and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Donavan on the administration’s efforts to promote and support sustainable urban development.  The comments by the Secretaries and their staffs was that the Departments were in strong collaboration to ensure that transportation planning, housing planning, and commercial development and land use planning were done  together.  They further noted that EPA, DOE and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are also key elements of successful urban planning efforts.  They emphasized the roles that light rail, mass transit, smart grid and distributed generation have in the planning process.  This approach has significant implications for both energy use and power infrastructure.  

Finally, a big “Thank You” to the New York Metro Area Chapter for the invitation to attend their annual networking reception which was held on the campus of Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (now New York Polytechnical Institute).  One of our association’s strongest supporters, Kevin Burke, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Consolidated Edison was the host of this wonderful event and offered accolades to the NYMAC chapter as well as the national organization.  While in New York we also had the opportunity to spend some high quality time with Craig Ivey, President of Con Edison and we participated in a panel discussion on Energy in the Northeast at National Grid. 

With the 1st quarter coming to an end, our organization continues to be recognized for its expertise and for being a resource nationally and now internationally.  I’m looking forward to continuing to explore the opportunities that come before us and more importantly I look forward to sharing those opportunities with you.

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Share the Love

February 1st, 2010

On January 28th, the day after the President’s “State of the Union”, the AABE Legislative Issues and Public Policy Committee (LIPPC) led the AABE Energy and Climate Change Summit. This historic meeting brought together more than a dozen principally African American organizations to discuss the issues around energy, climate change and the impact on communities of color. Some of the organizations represented included the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP), the African American Environmentalist Association, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), La Raza, the NAACP, the National Urban League, the National Conference of Black Mayors, the National Organization of Black County Officials, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. While not every invited organization could be in attendance, many others gave their support. The Summit was opened by Majority Whip James E. Clyburn and also featured Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, and Christopher Miller, Senior Policy Advisor – Energy and Environment, Office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They shared with attendees their perspectives on proposed legislation and heard some concerns about potential unanticipated consequences. While the event, in and of itself, was very well received, the next steps are even more important. The stakeholders have drafted a set of principles which will be shared with the members of each respective organization as well as with some of our country’s most important policy makers. You can expect to hear a good deal more about this effort in the very near future.

The 2011 federal budget was presented in early February and the AABE was invited to attend the budget roll-out for both the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. I attended the presentations at the Department of Energy and had the opportunity to hear, in detail, the administration’s plans. Energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear and clean coal appear to be the areas of most significant increase while the budgets for support of oil seem to fare the worst. Of particular note is that the Weatherization Assistance Program is scheduled to get one of the largest budget requests in its history. Understanding this budget is important to our organization because it is the best outline for our country’s energy priorities.

Several of our board members have spent time with our chapters this past month. Chair Carolyn Green had the opportunity to spend some time with the folks in Saint Louis and had a very productive time. While there, Carolyn met with Ameren’s Diversity Council. David Owens, the chair of the LIPPC, visited with the Los Angeles Chapter and was the speaker at the chapter’s Martin Luther King Day celebration. David reported that he sincerely enjoyed the meeting and noted that the chapter is growing and has a very active program. Carolyn Green, Paula Jackson and I will attend the New York Metropolitan Area Chapter’s (NYMAC) Executive Networking Reception hosted by Con Edison’s Chairman and CEO, Kevin Burke. The NYMAC has had a strong focus on education and community outreach this year, and we are looking forward to a report on those efforts.

The AABE has been asked to serve as a member of the Department of Energy’s Advisory Council to the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. This assignment is to assist the Department in its efforts to work with and to facilitate contracts to small and disadvantage businesses. We met for the first time earlier this month to hear the Department’s plans for reinvigorating its relations with small and disadvantaged businesses. If you have ideas of how the Department of Energy can improve its work with these businesses, please share those thoughts with me (fstewart@aabe.org) or with Carolyn Green (clg@energreencapital.com). We are pleased to have the opportunity to work with the Department in this very important area.

Now in the midst of Black History Month, we are not only reminded of the contribution African Americans in our country, but we are also reminded of how much work is still to be done in our communities. Energy and environment are not only hot topics for political discussions there are elements that touch the lives of all of our brothers and sisters. Unfortunately too many of our folks don’t understand either the importance of these issues or what they could or should do about them. We are the ones who have the knowledge of energy and environment technologies and policies. It is therefore up to us in AABE to serve and support our communities in these matters. Education, community awareness, employment assistance, and youth development are just four of the types of programs that AABE chapters have hosted. We are all part of a large multi-national family, and like most families, we have our good points and our not so good points. Nevertheless, we have a commitment to each other that transcends time and location. This is the time each year when we should be particularly mindful of the family and the allegiance that we owe each other. Let’s share the love.

New Year

January 1st, 2010

The year is off to a roaring start with a series of important events already on the Association?s calendar. The January 12th ?Conservation on Energy? held here in Washington featured AABE members Carolyn Green, Rod West, Christopher Womack, Gaurdie Banister, Jr., and Lloyd Yates. AABE was delight to have the opportunity to support the work of Black Enterprise under the sponsorship of Shell to put on this event. The attendees of the day-long session heard from the Environmental Protection Agency about the responsibilities that it is trying to meet and that hopes that it has for the improved health of the nation.

This year is going to have energy and environmental issues at the forefront of America?s business and political agendas. As in the past, interpreting and sharing information on, and analysis of, these issues with our communities will fall to us, the members of AABE. The Legislative Issues and Public Policy Committee will be principally responsible for keeping abreast of key policy concerns, and the Communications Committee will see to it that the information gets to you. This is our central mission; this is what we were founded to do.

We should all be reminded that 2010 is a census year and how important it is to each of our communities that there be an accurate accounting of African Americans and other minorities. The distribution formulae for federal funds (LIHEAP, Weatherization, etc.) are nearly always based on census data. But more importantly, the information that accurately describes our community, that speaks to the growth or loss, that shows progress or regression are important for our own understanding of our lives here in America. Please do what you can to encourage everyone you know to participate in the 2010 census.

The tragedy in the nation of Haiti has dominated much of our thought over the last several weeks and, although donating money may be all that we can do at this time, many of us in the energy industries have committed to doing what we can to rebuild the earthquake ravaged island. The National Office has been in touch with, Gary Ward, the Director of the Office of Caribbean and Latin American Affairs in the Department of Energy?s Office of Policy and International Affairs to offer whatever assistance the Association can provide in the effort to re-power and rebuild the energy infrastructure of Haiti. Indeed, a number of AABE members are already working hard to restore power to those hard hit communities, and we can expect to see some very dramatic progress over the next days and weeks. Our prayers go out to the people of Haiti and to those in southern Florida and elsewhere who have family and friends who are still there.

A quick ?Shout out? to the Florida chapter and to the African American Professional Employee Group (AAPEG) with whom, I had the opportunity to meet on January 8th. I always appreciate the time that I get to engage with chapters and am honored when you invite me to meet with your membership. We had a great discussion about AABE?s plans for 2010 and the opportunities for energy entrepreneurship especially in the areas of energy efficiency and renewable energy. The Florida chapter and the AAPEG are in marvelous position to share their experience in renewable energy technologies with minority energy professionals across the nation. We could all profit greatly from their work.

Finally, as we begin another exciting year, I?d like to invite you all to be a part of the discussion. We have a very active Linked In group page where you can connect with other members around the country. You?ll also find postings about events that we are sponsoring and / or participating in. The National Office is committed to providing you with as much information as possible in as many mediums as possible. So, check our website, Facebook page and Twitter feeds. Participate in our webinars. And most importantly, let us know how we?re doing. I want to hear your thoughts and ideas. And remember, it is your talents which make this a great organization so get involved.

This is sure to be an exciting year and I look forward to our working together.

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