Energy Policy

Energy Policy

A good energy policy for blacks would guarantee abundant supplies and low prices. Of course, traditional environmentalists and oil companies want high energy prices, the former to promote conservation, the latter to increase profits and exploration. Unfortunately, blacks do not control any aspect of energy supply and have little control over establishing energy policy. Blacks, for the most part, do not own the oil, gas, coal, electricity, gas pipelines, electricity transmission lines, refineries, tankers, oil fields, outer continental shelf drilling platforms, power plants, or oil, gas and utility companies that distribute energy in the United States. Blacks, who make up 13% of the American population, also do not exert influence from the demand side of energy use. We do not own, distribute nor use energy to our advantage. Blacks must utilize energy policy to become owners and suppliers of energy.

In 1986 a black entrepreneur from Nigeria started a company that later entered the oil and gas exploration business. CAMAC, a multinational oil and gas exploration company led by CEO Kase Lawal, left, as its 2006 Company of the Year. This is the first black-owned company to significantly participate in the energy sector. CAMAC is the number two company on the BE 100 list with $1.5 billion in sales. CAMAC partners with Conoco and Chevron for big offshore projects. In 2005, CAMAC acquired a controlling interest in Unity National Bank, the only black-owned federally chartered bank in Texas. Mr. Lawal is Nigerian born and raised. He received a B.A. in chemical engineering from Texas Southern University and an M.B.A. in finance and marketing from Prairie View A&M. He worked at Shell, Halliburton, Suncrest Investment Corp and Baker Investments before forming his own company. In June 1999, he was appointed by the city of Houston to serve as a commissioner on the Port of Houston Authority Board. He also serves on the board of directors of the Houston Airport System Development CorporatioAfrican Americans should aggressively participate in the proposed regional transmission organizations (RTOs), which will ultimately control electricity power sharing all over the country. And even in states and regions that do not accept RTOs, deregulation will still provide unique opportunities. The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is pressuring states and electric power companies to form RTOs.

Energy policy directly affects the environment, particularly our atmosphere. There is a general consensus in the scientific community that global warming and global climate change due to manmade influences are real. Moreover, it simply makes sense that we cannot continue to dump limitless emissions into our atmosphere without serious negative consequences. Asthma appears to be rising with these changes in our atmosphere. AAEA believes that summer smog is the single worst factor, behind cigarette smoking, in creating respiratory problems in the United States. Rush hour traffic creates these dirty air (nonattainment) days. You can see the air in every major American city during summer months. The 200 million cars and trucks we drive each day are creating unhealthy and even deadly conditions for about 150 million Americans. The great benefit to America is that rush hour literally drives our economy. We can't stop rush hour. We can, however, change the hydrocarbon-based pollution coming from the tailpipes of our vehicles.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling have revolutionized oil and gas recovery in the United States.  The USA is now oil and gas independent due to these technologies. Historically, America used about 18 million barrels of oil every single day. About half of that came from imports. A significant portion of our imports came from the Middle East. Although we have about 700 million barrels of oil in our Strategic Petroleum Reserve (underground in Texas and Louisiana), a supply disruption from OPEC and Arab nations would have crippled America in a few months. Not any more.  No longer do we need to use our military to secure the oil we need. No longer is there a need to engage in a global war over oil (World War II started for the same reason).   What does this mean for Blacks?  Who knows?

Are there reasonable, profitable ways to clean the air, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and promote industrial development and entrepreneurial opportunities for blacks? The manufacture and comprehensive market penetration of electric vehicles, combined with nuclear-powered electricity supply, are the solutions. It is generally accepted in the scientific community that if America retrofitted to hybrid and all electric vehicles, pollution from hydrocarbon-fueled electric power plants would virtually neutralize the clean air benefits. Nuclear power has safely provided about 1/4th of our national electricity requirements for the past two decades. New, modular nuclear power plants can safely provide the electricity for the electric cars we need to clean the air and reduce our dependence on imported oil. Blacks should look to these new industries to become industrialists.

AAEA is aware of the extreme public fear and misconceptions about nuclear power. The biggest misconception is that these plants can blow up like nuclear warheads. They cannot and have not. The other misconception is that radiation releases pose an unacceptable risk to the public. We submit that this risk is no greater than the risk of transporting gasoline and other hazardous substances in trucks all over the U.S. every day to supply our vehicles, homes and businesses. Tons of hazardous materials ride the highways in 18-wheelers. An estimated 125,000 hazmat trucks roll every day, according to the National Tank Truck Carriers Inc. At least 45,000 of those are gasoline tanker trucks with an average 8,700 gallons on board.

We are in a new America and converting from a petroleum-based economy to an electricity-based economy will enhance our national security. Oil will remain crucial to our overall economy, but it will not be an Achilles Heel in terms of our health and national security. Such a conversion will provide numerous opportunities for African American entrepreneurship. After years of considering and studying nuclear power, it is our opinion that this technology can be operated safely and provides an almost inexhaustible source of power for America. New designs and streamlined procedures should be enacted immediately so that our nation can reap the benefits of this technology. Subsidies for promoting nuclear power should be linked directly to subsidies (dollar-for-dollar) for solar and wind power so that these other viable alternative technologies can also be utilized to maximum advantage. Such a policy would greatly increase opportunities for blacks to participate in energy sector ownership.

The sale, purchase and construction of long-distance electricity transmission lines are other important areas for black ownership and participation. America needs a new, national utility grid similar to our national highway systems that can effectively and efficiently distribute electricity where it is needed without the bottlenecks of the current, inadequate system. Blacks should participate in the construction, ownership, control and regulation of significant portions of these transmission lines.

States have required utilities to sell their generating plants in exchange for deregulation of the industry. These utilities have retained the administration and distribution at the local level in exchange for being allowed to invest in other commercial areas, such as telecommunications. This provides an excellent opportunity for blacks to gain market share. To the extent that smaller generating plants are competitive in a deregulated market, it provides an opportunity for smaller scale minority entrepreneurs to participate in the industry.

The bottom line is that Blacks need to become owners of energy infrastructure and resources.