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Natural Gas: The bridge between minority communities and affordable energy

Some of America’s most notable civil rights leaders have been vocal on the critical role of affordable energy in local communities. Leaders such as Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as well as National Urban League President Marc Morial have expressed concerns about the negative impact of a natural gas shortage will have on communities of color. While there are a lot of variables that determine the cost of energy, the availability and delivery of energy – including via natural gas pipelines – is essential to keeping energy affordable for every American.

Several voices, including Rev. Jackson, have been pushing for a new natural gas pipeline in Hopkins Park, Illinois, citing the potential benefits for the local economy. In a recent Chicago Sun-Times article, Janette Wilson, a senior advisor to Jackson, said natural gas is safe and clean and necessary. “In order for the town to move into the 21st century, you have to have gas lines for residents and for industry,” Wilson said.

The vitality of the natural gas industry is not only important to minority communities in order keep energy reliable, but also because of the goodjobs it provides. “We believe that through the development of a workforce that reflects the country’s demographics, upward mobility will take place in underserved, urban, rural, middle class and other communities,” Morial said in a letter to the pipeline industry.

Over the last decade, the energy industry has made significant strides in diversifying its workforce. The American Petroleum Institute (API) recently commissioned a study, which showed that America’s natural gas and oil companies support more than 10 million U.S. jobs, employing a highly skilled workforce of scientists, engineers, and craftspeople. API’s latest analysis – known as “The Future of Work” – nearly 50% of job opportunities through 2040 will be filled by individuals that identify as African American, Hispanic, Asian or non-white.

Whether it’s partnering with schools to implement programs such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) or working with urban community programs to promote nature conservation, oil and natural gas companies remain committed to a diverse workforce.

As energy and infrastructure continue to be the policy focus inside the beltway, it’s imperative our leaders don’t lost sight of the energy industry’s value in the in every community across the country.