Moving toward energy independence and improving minorities vantage point in the energy industry were some of the issues discussed during the “Solving the Energy Equation: Demand, Supply, Infrastructure and how it Impacts our Communities” panel at the 2012 Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference last Friday.
Although more energy sources are available for public and private usage, panelists David Matthews, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s director of the Division of New Reactor Licensing; Arnetta McCrae, President and CEO of the American Association of Blacks in Energy; as well as the panel’s moderator Hilda Pinnix-Ragland mentioned that there are still challenges that linger in the industry.
“The last couple of years have been somewhat challenging in the energy industry,” Ragland, who is also vice president at Duke Energy, said. “The economic situation definitely impacted it, and it comes at people of color or minorities from many many different vantage points. One is that we want to make sure that we have reliable energy and that when we hit the switch it comes on. Two, we want it to be affordable…We also have a challenge with respect to health…and with respect to environment. The good news is that if we work together we can become a part of the equation making sure that we balance all of these facets, so that everyone can win.”
Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association and board member of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Policies Health Policy Institute’s Advisory Committee agreed that striving for energy independence “…is an opportunity for a win-win” considering how climate change disproportionately affects minority and low income communities.
Edison Electric Institute Vice President of Business Operations David K. Owen said that energy independence “…is an area we have to do a lot in,” while Motiva Enterprise’s Vice President of Strategy & Portfolio Marlon Harrison declared it as a potential game changer that can produce more jobs, make the U.S. more secure and increase American Competiveness on a global level.
“We’ve got to become energy dependent,” honorary co-host Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-SC) said. “We’ve got to create jobs for the future. We’ve got to clean up our environment. All of these things we’ve got to do, and none of them are going to get done without some risks.”
He also mentioned how the road to energy independence will play out politically.
“I know that this is an issue that is going to cry out for a lot of cooperation a lot of compromises a lot of balancing going forward,” he began. “And I hope that as we move to our next level of involvement some will be wind, some will be solar some will be bio fuels, and quite frankly, some will be nuclear. And that is what we’ll have to do. Let’s hope we’ll work together and find a way to make it productive and safe.”
Like Clyburn, Georgia State Representative and CASEnergy member Calvin Smyre is a supporter of nuclear energy. Smyre urged other policymakers to be advocates of energy.
“We as elected officials ought to be, on a more public policy perspective, be an advocate for nuclear energy,” Smyre, the self-proclaimed “cheerleader” for energy and former chair of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators said.
“Energy is the foundation of our strength and our competitveness and it means that we need it to be reliable, we need it to be affordable, and we need it to be available,” Owens said. “Energy policy must ensure that consumers have access to it.”
“Some kind of way we have to figure out how to strike the balance between what is efficient what is effective. Trying to strike a balance in how we improve the quality of life of the people that we all would like to serve in whatever capacity,” Clyburn said.