Calm summer can’t hide national energy problems says the head of the American Association of Blacks in Energy

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2001 – A calm summer can’t mask the growing problems in the U.S. energy infrastructure and the pressing need to update the national energy policy, the chairman of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) said today.

“We avoided the energy crisis predicted for this summer thanks to moderate weather and short-term market reactions. However, none of the fundamentals has changed. If we want to have an expanding and robust national economy, we have to have a strong energy infrastructure. We don’t have the capability for economic development without that,” said AABE Chairman Rufus D. Gladney.

AABE is a national association of energy professionals founded and dedicated to ensure the input of African Americans and other minorities into the discussion and development of energy policies, regulations, R&D technologies and environmental issues.

The 1000-member organization was founded during the energy crisis of 1977.

Its members come from the executive ranks of oil companies and utilities; industry trade associations; agencies and commissions of local, state and national governments; universities; consulting firms; entrepreneurial energy businesses; and other energy related areas.

AABE members are particularly concerned about the shock waves that higher energy prices and shortages could send through the national economy.

“If the economy starts to contract, the first to feel the effects usually are the minority and low-income families. Last winter was a prime example of that. When natural gas and propane prices soared for nearly all the country, minority and low-income families were hit the hardest by higher heating bills,” Gladney said.

He added that low-income households spent 14 percent of their income on energy in 2000, while the national household average was 4.8 percent, up a percentage point from 1999.

Teams of AABE members have analyzed the energy policy legislation approved by the U.S. House on Aug. 2 and now before the Senate. As AABE members push for Senate action this year, they also will be mounting a broad-based effort for improvements to the package.

“AABE members come from every sector of the energy industry. We have professional, technical, and public policy experts plus managers and executives. We know the energy industry inside out. We also know the needs and concerns of African-Americans and other minorities. We’ll be working hard in the coming months to share our expertise and viewpoint with policymakers,” Gladney said.

He said the kickoff for that effort will come later this month after Congress convenes. AABE members will take part in the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual legislative conference. AABE members are organizing a conference “brain trust” session focusing on energy issues, Gladney said.

“This is not a technology problem. We know how to generate electricity and transmit it. We know how to drill for gas and oil and process it and send it through the pipelines. As a nation, we haven’t been doing enough of that. This country’s energy demand grew 17 percent from 1991 to 2000. Yet, the domestic energy supply grew only 2.3 percent. We need legislation that will put the right policies and structures in place to encourage energy development, which in turn will support economic development.”

Gladney emphasized that the national energy policy also must include more energy efficiency and conservation measures, plus full funding for home energy assistance and weatherization programs.

The AABE analysis supports:

– Minimum funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program at $3 billion a year plus full funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program.

– Allowing expedited permits and other federal actions for energy-related project approvals only if public comment and legitimate environmental protection needs are addressed.

– Establishing national appliance efficiency standards, especially for products such as refrigerators and air conditioners.

– Siting new energy technology projects in brownfields only to the extent that they are compatible with community needs.

– Requiring brownfield project developers to provide job training and employment opportunities for local residents.

– Allowing environmentally sound oil and gas exploration and production in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge

– Making consumer protections, especially for minority and low-income communities, a high priority in any comprehensive electricity legislation that promotes competition, protects consumers, enhances reliability and efficiency, and repeals and reforms existing electric utility laws.

– Investing $10 billion over 10 years in research in clean coal technologies.

– Environmentally sound development and relicensing of nuclear facilities

– Creating a national repository for nuclear waste.

The complete AABE energy policy summary may be found on the AABE’s website at http://www.aabe.org . To get to the summary, click on “publications,” then “documents.”

SOURCE: American Association of Blacks in Energy

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