Diversity Seen Playing Greater Role in Energy Industry’s Future

Diversity Seen Playing Greater Role in Energy Industry’s Future

Daniel Valdés is a 22-year-old born in Texas to Mexican parents. As a child, he watched full of enthusiasm and childhood glee the wind turbines in his native state every time his family drove by through the vast fields where these massive constructions laid.

That same fascination with power generation would later nurture a concern for the environment and the natural phenomena that he experienced in his hometown of Galveston. He decided that he wanted to be in a place where eco-friendly energy policies could make a difference.

More and more Latinos seeking work in the energy industry are receiving scholarships. *** Se beca a cada vez más latinos, quienes buscan trabajar en energía. (Photo by Matthew Henry/Unsplash.)

Today he is a chemical engineer, recently graduated from Columbia University in New York amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic. He got the opportunity to be a public policy fellow at the American Petroleum Institute (API) until December. From there, he went through the House of Representatives as part of the Public Policy Fellow of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI.)

“I have had several experiences in the Gulf of Mexico, most recently, Hurricane Harvey, which hit Houston hard. It was one of the worst hurricanes, just after Katrina. There are wildfires in California, and in different parts of the world, the winter is extremely cold. The important thing to consider is that with the changes that we will see in the following 10, 15, 20, or 100 years, there will be a real need to lower carbon emissions.”

Diversity and Inclusion

Nowadays, the energy industry seeks to broaden its diversity to include minorities such as African Americans and Latinos such as Valdés. The Community Energy Center (CEC) emerged to provide information and perspectives on the sector’s role in these communities. It also provides a forum that raises awareness, understanding, and discussions about the energy sector’s importance in their everyday lives.

Thus, the industry’s projection regarding the recruitment of these ethnic and racial minorities is positive. It is thanks to this that young people like Valdés should have more significant opportunities.

“The CHCI Public Policy and Graduate Fellowship Programs provide an unmatched leadership experience for the brightest and most innovative emerging leaders in our community. Through our program, they acquire in-depth knowledge of highly relevant topics and industries, such as energy. This, combined with induction into an incredible network of peers and established leaders, gives CHCI fellows a boost to their careers, advances the Latino community, and strengthens the nation,” said Marco Davis, CHCI president and CEO.

In Valdés’ view, diversity is essential in any industry to have minorities represented in the decisions that also impact these communities. He is confident that the only way to know the minorities’ perspective on these subjects is to allow them to form part of the decisions and get involved in them.

“Without a science program, I would not have had the opportunity to know how energy policies operate from the perspective of the organization that is in charge of American oil. It is a perspective that I appreciate very much, as I did not know about it,” he said.


Opportunities for minorities

According to an API analysis based on the IHS Global Insight report, oil and natural gas will continue to be the primary fuel source for decades to come, while other energy forms will become commercially viable.

There will be an increase in export capacity and more than 800,000 jobs in the energy industry by 2030 under the energy development policies. Of the new jobs created by 2030, African Americans and Latinos could fill more than 285,000 (35%.)

“The energy industry has proven to be a catalyst for economic activity and has long supported members of our communities,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president and CEO of the National Publishers Association of Newspapers (NNPA) in the framework of the joint effort with the National Association of Hispanic Publications Media LLC (NAHP Media) for the launch of the Community Energy Center.

Ricardo Hurtado, president of media for NAHP Media, endorsed Chavis’ view and pointed to the crucial role of this new organization in “the path to the creation of new careers and professional development opportunities” for minorities.

Valdés, who completed his bachelor’s degree with scholarships and a lot of effort from his family, is a clear example of the need for these new policies and fellowships. As the young man aspires to continue training, he is in the process of applying for a master’s degree in chemical engineering and environmental sustainability, with plans to then go for a doctorate in public policy. He has also not ruled out knocking on the API’s doors again, once his education is complete.


Valdés is optimistic about the future of the energy industry in terms of diversity and sustainability. “I would say that I see a transition from fuels to renewable energy. Regarding the oil industry, I see a more diverse future in terms of gender, race, and color.”

During his stay at the API, Valdés drew satisfaction from the work he did in the institution’s programs, both in English and Spanish, which focused on guiding high school students and their parents in STEM and other university study areas.

Programs such as API, CEC, and CHCI empower Latinos like David Valdés. *** Programas como API, CEC y CHCI empoderan a los latinos como David Valdés. (Photo by Ricardo Annanda/Unsplash)

The CEC promotes the empowerment of minorities and raises awareness about the environment and the need to make energy affordable in minority communities.

To learn more about the Community Energy Center’s work and to receive information about their work, visit www.communityenergycenter.org. To learn more about the scholarship and leadership programs offered by CHCI, which has an application deadline on Jan. 15, visit https://chci.org/programs/public-policy-fellowship-program/.

David Valdés: “Veo un futuro más diverso en cuanto género, raza y color en la industria petrolera” appeared first on Negocios Now.

(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez. Edited by Matthew B. Hall.)

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Iranian gasoline shipments to Venezuela seized

Iranian gasoline shipments to Venezuela seized

When the United States intercepted and seized illegal shipments of Iranian fuel bound for Venezuela, the siege of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro tightened.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, four tankers carrying just over 1.1 million barrels of fuel from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, known as the IRGC, were stopped and comandeered. The foreign-flagged ships were identified as Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna, which were brought to Houston, Texas. Last year, the U.S. Department of State designated the IRGC a foreign terrorist organization.

The cargo of the four seized ships valued at $50 million, was seized by order U.S. District Court Judge Jeb Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The U.S. has accused Iran of using foreign-owned and flagged ships to violate sanctions on both Venezuela and Iran.

The M/T Bering, one of the vessels that had its oil seized is pictured in an undated photograph in an unknown location. (U.S. DOJ)


The M/T Bella, one of the vessels that had its oil seized is pictured in an undated photograph in an unknown location. (U.S. DOJ)


The M/T Pandi, one of the vessels that had its oil seized is pictured in an undated photograph in an unknown location. (U.S. DOJ)

In May, the Iranian government sent five oil tankers to Venezuela with 1.5 million barrels of gasoline.

U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Craig S. Fuller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, said that the Maduro regime and its allies continue to pose a serious threat to freedom and democracies for neighboring countries of Latin America.


“The drastic growth of drug trafficking that comes from Venezuela is a serious threat to North and South America,” he said.

For Lila Urdaneta, an ordinary citizen in exile in Miami, the seizure of fuel affects “everyone, but the guiltiest is the regime, which did not maintain the plants so that they would collapse and there would be no production. They thought about having gasoline from abroad and managing it to maintain control,” she said.

Venezuela, one of the largest oil reserves in the world, has run out of gasoline due to the deterioration of Petróleos de Venezuela. The state oil company suffers from years of mismanagement, underinvestment, and corruption. The Trump administration has ratcheted up sanctions on the Maduro regime.

Following the seizure order, the Iranian ambassador in Caracas, Hojat Soltani, denied that his country had anything to do with the ships. “The ships are not Iranian, and neither the owner nor its flag has anything to do with Iran,” the diplomat said on Twitter.

Petróleos de Venezuela SA, a state company, began operations on January 1, 1976, and was nationalized by President Carlos Andrés Pérez. The company appeared in the Global 500 list of the “Fortune” Magazine in position 39 among the largest companies in the world.

The oil firm has the largest oil reserves on the planet, reaching at the end of 2013 a total certified sum of 298,353 million barrels, which represent 20% of the world reserves.

The company had 140,626 employees until 2019, and a workforce hired in the same year of 16,168 employees. Citgo is one of its subsidiaries in the United States.

In 2019, Petróleos de Venezuela SA reported a decline in crude oil production from 1.1 million to 768,000 barrels per day.

(Edited by Rafael Prieto and Bryan Wilkes.)

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Israel set to send natural gas to Europe

Israel set to send natural gas to Europe

Israel and Europe will proceed with a natural gas pipeline that will carry Israeli gas to European customers, after the Israeli government ratified the agreement. Partner countries Greece and Cyprus have already approved the project. The Eastern Mediterranean, or EastMed, pipeline project will allow Israel to become a major energy exporter, while reducing European reliance on Russian energy supplies.

Israeli Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz hailed the agreement, calling it in a news release, “another historic milestone in our efforts to transform the State of Israel into an exporter of energy – a process which will bring in tens of billions in revenues for the benefit of Israel and its citizens in the coming years.”

The project has been somewhat controversial in recent years, with Italy initially opposing it, but later signing on. Turkey and Libya, which are not part of the project, formed a separate economic agreement that the U.S. opposed, leading to U.S. spending on a regional framework to facilitate cooperation on energy issues between the U.S., Israel, Greece, and Cyprus.

The pipeline is expected to stretch approximately 1,200 miles over land and under water at a cost of roughly $6.8 billion, according to reports. The EastMed pipeline project won’t be the first time Israel will export natural gas. Earlier this year, the energy ministers from Israel and Egypt announced Israeli natural gas exports to Egypt.

IGI Poseidon, a joint venture between Italian and Greek energy companies, is managing and designing the project along with support from Bulgaria, which will get a pipeline spur, according to the organization’s website. IGI Poseidon is conducting underwater surveys to map the best route, as well as economic and commercial feasibility studies.

The European Union is also investing in the project through its Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). Earlier this year the EU included the EastMed project on its list of Projects of Common Interest, signifying the pipeline will have significant benefits for EU member nations.

The pipeline is expected to be completed by 2025, and will run from the Levantine Basin gas field in Israel and the Aphrodite gas field in Cyprus through Crete and Greece, with the main terminus in Italy. It is expected to carry 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year, with a planned increase to 20 billion cubic meters per year, according to IGI Poseidon.

While all countries involved in the announcement are U.S. allies, another U.S. ally is firmly opposed. Complicating U.S. diplomacy in the region, Turkey has expressed serious concerns and made territorial claims that include areas the EastMed pipeline will use. In a move many saw as a way to counter the EastMed pipeline, Turkey signed a memorandum with Libya that would create an exclusive economic zone between the two nations.

(Randam via Wikimedia)

In addition to opposition from the EU, the memorandum drew a rebuke from U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt at the Delphi Economic Forum in Greece in June, who said the memorandum is “inconsistent with the American understanding of international maritime law… .”

“It is unhelpful and provocative in any terms, but most importantly it can take away no right from Greece. Whether this document is posted to the United Nations or not, it does not detract from the rights that Greece possesses still under international maritime law,” Pyatt said.

Energy ministers from Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority also joined the Egyptian-Israeli meeting earlier this year. It concluded with participants planning future meetings as the East Mediterranean Gas Forum. France has asked to join that organization, while the U.S. has requested permanent observer status.

Both the EastMed pipeline and the East Mediterranean Gas Forum have bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, which last year passed the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 in its annual spending bill. The bill created a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center to facilitate cooperation on energy issues between the U.S., Israel, Greece and Cyprus. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law as part of an overall budget package. Among other provisions, the act requires the Trump administration to provide a written strategy to Congress on enhanced security and energy cooperation with countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, and to provide Congress with a list of malign activities by Russia and other countries in the region.

Russia, which sends natural gas both to Turkey and through Turkey to Europe, has not weighed in on the EastMed pipeline project.

(Edited by Jeff Epstein and Sally Benford.)

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As domestic uranium production plummets, conservationists fight mining expansion

As domestic uranium production plummets, conservationists fight mining expansion

Conservationists who want to prevent an expansion of mining near National Parks and Native American lands got a recent boost from a key congressional committee, but they are still facing renewed pressure from a Trump administration seeking to boost its domestic production of a vital element for nuclear fuel.

While a recent report government showed a stark drop in U.S. domestic uranium production, the House of Representatives committee that sets federal spending said it wouldn’t fund an administration program to boost uranium mining. In a July 13 report, the House Appropriations Committee said that it needed more information from the White House before it could set up the $150 million-a-year program for the government to buy uranium from domestic mining operations. 

The congressional action is a boost to conservationists, who saw the program as a bailout to the uranium industry. Meanwhile, in its annual report on domestic uranium production, the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed that total production of uranium concentrate in the U.S. in 2019 was just 0.17 million pounds, an 89 percent decrease from 0.72 million pounds in 2018.

The precipitous drop comes after the Trump administration released a report that focused on proposals to revitalize domestic uranium mining, citing the need for a healthy industry in order to support national defense. However, the proposal has also drawn out opposition from conservationists, who argue that uranium mining not only causes environmental damage, but also encroaches upon National Parks—such as the Grand Canyon—as well as Native American lands.

The primary proposal in the Energy Department’s April report, titled  Restoring America’s Competitive Nuclear Energy Advantage, was to set up a 10-year, $1.5 billion program that would purchase uranium mined domestically, which it argued would provide a steady and lucrative marketplace for domestic producers. 

Uranium is the primary fuel used in nuclear power production, generating electricity through 96 operating reactors throughout the U.S. Uranium can be accessed through open pit mining, but the most common extraction method is called “in situ leaching,” where chemicals are pumped through groundwater to dissolve uranium in porous rocks, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

After the administration released its report encouraging expanded domestic uranium mining, 75 conservationist groups signed onto a letter to congressional leaders opposing the proposed “bailout” for the uranium mining industry.

Organized through the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, the Sierra Club, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Wilderness Society and the League of Conservation Voters were among the groups to join in signing the letter, which was addressed to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and other congressional leaders.

America Fitzpatrick, a senior representative at The Wilderness Society, argued that industry claims of a uranium shortage were disingenuous. 

“There is a glut of uranium in the global market. The problems in the domestic nuclear uranium industry are largely economical. Prices are too low and it’s not economical to mine,” she said. “It’s dubious to say there is a shortage of uranium and we have to mine at home.”

Many uranium mining operations are located closely to both Native American tribal communities and natural national monuments, including the Grand Canyon in Arizona, as well Big Ears the Grand Staircase in Utah, Fitzpatrick said. 

The Grand Canyon as seen from Arizona. (Clay Banks/Unsplash)

With in-situ leaching, uranium mining can often contaminate water, leading to radiation exposure issues with both miners and people living within the area, she said.

The Wilderness Society would like to see a 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims around the Grand Canyon, enacted in 2012, made permanent. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban on new mining claims over about 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon in 2018.

In October 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation introduced by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, that would make that uranium mining ban permanent. In December, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, also a Democrat, introduced similar legislation in the U.S. Senate.

The exterior of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. is pictured on January 20, 2020. (Zach D Roberts/Zenger)

The Trump Administration has said the president would veto the bill if passed by Congress, arguing that it would place federal lands “off limits to development and uses that would otherwise be permissible under Federal laws governing public lands, mining, mineral, and geothermal leasing.

“The Administration opposes such a large, permanent withdrawal, which would prohibit environmentally responsible development, as determined through site-specific analysis, of uranium and other mineral resources,” the White House said in a statement shortly after the bill passed the House.

The National Mining Association said it has been “sounding the alarm” on domestic uranium production, arguing that domestic producers are facing unfair underpricing from state-mandated foreign competition that is “thwarting domestic producers’ ability to compete on a level playing field.”

“Domestic uranium production is teetering on the edge of disappearing, with less than five percent of our needs being met domestically. Our mineral import reliance for uranium and other minerals should be alarming to all Americans, especially when the U.S. is home to ample resources, stringent environmental protections, and the most advanced mining technologies and best practices in the world,” said Rich Nolan, president and CEO of the association.

“Uranium is one of the most toxic substances mined, having impacts on the land, and with air and water quality,” Fitzpatrick of The Wilderness Society said, adding that unlike coal, oil and gas mining, hard rock mining operations like uranium mining aren’t required to pay royalties for access to public lands.

As the Energy Information Administration report showed, domestic uranium mining has been in a steep decline during the latter half of the decade. Following a decade peak of 4.9 million pounds of production in 2014, domestic uranium mining decreased each year thereafter, with 2016’s total accounting reaching only 2.5 million pounds, reflecting a 49 percent drop in just two years. Over the following two years, domestic uranium production plunged another 71 percent, to 0.72 million pounds in 2018, before registering another 89 percent decrease to close out the decade.

(Editing by Bryan Wilkes and Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)

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