The Black community and American energy policy
By Freddie Allen
—Due to shifting demographics in the U.S., it’s increasingly important for Blacks to take the lead in shaping America’s energy policies.
—The American Association of Blacks in Energy is a Black think tank focused on energy policies, emerging technologies, and environmental issues.
—President Donald Trump and the Senate Democrats released infrastructure plans that include more than $1 trillion in spending.
As the debate continues over the future of energy in the U.S. and around the world, industry insiders say that now is the time for African American consumers and businesses to step up and help shape America’s energy policy.
The country’s demographics are changing. According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. population, as a whole, is expected to become majority-minority in 2044.
“The minority population is projected to rise to 56 percent of the total in 2060, compared with 38 percent in 2014,” the Census Bureau reported.
Forward-thinking industry leaders have taken notice and are working to recruit and train an increasingly diverse labor force.
According to the American Petroleum Institute’s “State of American Energy 2018” report, as the baby boomers retire and the oil and natural gas industry expands, job opportunities in the industry will continue to grow over the next couple of decades, requiring more workers. Researchers project that nearly 1.9 million new job opportunities will be available in the industry by 2035.
“According to an IHS study, women and minorities will account for hundreds of thousands of those openings—more than 700,000 African Americans and Hispanics and 290,000 women through 2035,” the report said.
During an interview with the NNPA Newswire, Jack Gerard, the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said that the oil and natural gas industry is working to broaden its base in the Black community and increase awareness about the high-paying job opportunities in the industry.
Tracey Woods, the vice president of operations at the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE), a Black think tank focused on energy policies, regulations, emerging technologies, and environmental issues, said that it’s important for potential employees and entrepreneurs, that are interested in getting into the oil and natural gas industry, to understand policy.
AABE’s founder, Clarke Watson, understood how critical it was for Blacks to not only understand energy policy, but to also be involved in the planning and implementation of America’s policies.
According to Watson’s biography on AABE’s website, “Watson worked in the energy industry for decades, eventually starting his own consulting firm. He founded the American Association of Blacks in Energy in 1977 after hearing of a meeting of energy policymakers that had been called by then President Jimmy Carter. No minorities were on the original guest list.”
The group’s mission continues today, because energy policies set today can have lasting socioeconomic effects for generations.
And when it comes to policies about access to STEM education and investment capital, those economic effects could mean higher wages in the oil and natural gas industry for Black workers and increased business opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Woods said that Black energy experts and industry leaders have to talk to people about President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan and what it means for the Black community.
Trump’s infrastructure plan commits “$200 billion in federal funding over 10 years to stimulate state and local spending and private investment,” NPR reported. “Half of the funding, $100 billion, would be used as incentives to entice cities, counties and states to raise at least 80 percent of the infrastructure costs themselves.”
The article continued: “That’s a departure from the way many projects are funded now. Funding for federal-aid highways, including interstates, is usually allocated in an 80-20 federal-state split. So, President Trump’s plan would flip that funding burden.”
Shortly before the president’s infrastructure plan went public, the Senate Democrats released a “Jobs and Infrastructure Plan” that promised a “historic $1 trillion federal investment to modernize our crumbling infrastructure and create more than 15 million good-paying jobs that American families desperately need.”
The Senate Democrats’ plan would also hit President Trump’s tax law signed late last year.
The Senate Democrats’ plan would raise the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, which Republicans cut from 35 percent to 21 percent, according to CNN Money. The Democrats’ proposal also “undoes parts of the new tax law in order to fund increased infrastructure spending.”
Woods said that with funding the Black Press informs the community, Black voters can hold legislators and policymakers accountable.
Woods said that with federal, state, and local funding, more than one trillion dollars will be spent on fixing bridges, highways and roads, building pipelines and upgrading the country’s energy grid. The Democrats’ plan also promised cheaper fuel and greater access to high-speed Internet in rural areas.
“That’s about one trillion dollars that you’re going to pay for,” said Woods, referring to taxpayers. “We need to ensure that we’re participating.”
Woods continued: “Our communities are, very often, not at the table and not represented and miss the moment to impact the legislation. So, when you look at the Black Press and the opportunity to get that message out about the importance of policymaking in the energy industry—that’s huge.”