Citing health disparities and economic opportunity as primary motivators, the Florida NAACP released a new report, Just Energy Policies: Reducing Pollution and Creating Jobs, that sets forth an agenda for increasing energy affordability and economic development opportunities for African Americans. As the report notes, “leading in a new energy economy serves as a pathway out of poor health, poverty and joblessness while establishing a foundation of energy resources and security for generations to come.”
According to Jacqui Patterson, the report’s lead author, low-income residents pay a greater share of their incomes – African Americans spend an estimated 30% of their monthly income –on energy, and African Americans are left out of energy jobs and suffer from health problems associated with energy production. “These statistics demonstrate that not only are African-Americans not part of the decision-making for our energy choices. But we are disproportionately experiencing the harms from the energy production processes and getting a trace amount of the economic benefits from the energy sector,” says Patterson.
As noted in the report, a 2010 study from the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) found that in 2009 African Americans spent $40 billion on energy, yet only 1 percent had energy-related jobs. Further, out of revenue of one trillion-dollars created from the energy sector, African Americas gained less than 1 percent of that revenue, even though they represent 13 percent of the population. Consequently, Patterson says, the NAACP recommends “that we are intentional about putting in policy frameworks that will allow this bounty to be shared equitably.”
Adora Obi Nweze, President of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, says that the nation’s oldest civil rights organization supports efforts that incorporate renewable sources of energy into Florida’s generation mix as it pursues greater energy equality in the state. “While state policymakers should be applauded for their efforts to adopt policies to encourage the distribution and use of clean energy,” she says, “the state needs to be cognizant of two important concerns: lack of participation by minority, low and fixed-income communities in distributed generation and renewable energy programs, and fair and equitable distribution of electric grid maintenance costs; ensuring that all consumers contribute equally to maintaining the electric grid which ALL Floridians rely on.”
Having “established the production of energy as a clear civil rights issue,” the NAACP, along with the National Urban League and groups of African American legislators across the country, are on the cutting edge of increasing minority understanding of and participation in the energy sector.