Sunday, February 03, 2013

Ownership of Energy Infrastructure and Resources


By Norris McDonald

I participated in an American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) Summit this week and, as usual, they put on a very successful event at the Navy Memorial in Washington, DC.  All of the major energy associations were represented by their presidents and CEOs.  Congress was also well represented by Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC), Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ).  Bob Perciasepe represented the U.S. EPA. Donna Brazile gave a rousing presentation and engaged in banter with me.

Although many participants asked about partnership and ownership opportunities, the presentations were about employment opportunities in the various energy industries.  The industry associations do not appear to be interested in facilitating partnerships and ownership opportunities with African American entrepreneurs.  Observers of our inquiries should not conclude that we are simply whining about a very bad situation.  They should conclude that our inquiries represent a determination to gain energy infrastructure and resources ownership by any legal means necessary.

Pressure is increasing in this area because many of the extremely qualified professionals who are members of AABE are retiring and becoming entrepreneurs and want to own energy businesses.  However, constraints to entry are obvious and include significant capital outlays.  It appears, however, that the energy industry associations and their member companies will not be rushing to assist African Americans in becoming owners of energy infrastructure and resources.  They are excellent at sponsoring luncheons, dinners, summits and conferences though.

What are we to do?  I have come to the conclusion that we will have to play hard ball.  Leverage all of our talent and resources in order to break into an industry that appears unwilling to assist us.  This will include utilizing any and all political power at our disposal.  It will also mean pursuing a more aggressive private sector approach among ourselves.  This dynamic campaign should also include rewarding our friends and calling out those who are indifferent or hostile to our aspirations.  Let's start cooking with natural gas, coal, wind, solar, nuclear, wood chips, and hydro.

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