Former United States Department of Energy Director and Assistant Secretary, the Honorable James E. Campos, is paving the way for equality and evolution within the energy sector and beyond. While serving as director under President Trump in the Office of Minority Economic Impact for the Department of Energy (DOE), he began the Equity in Energy initiative with powerful women at his right hand. The initiative is designed to include and invite individuals in our communities, including minorities, Native Americans, women, children, veterans and formerly incarcerated persons, in all the programs of the DOE. The program includes several sub-pillars including Women in Energy, advocating to amplify women’s voices and support their roles in leadership. Campos recognizes that women play an integral part in the foundation of a healthy society, and to be successful we must cultivate the opinions and abilities of our female citizens, not dismiss or inhibit them.
Campos is an energy ally for the people and the environment and understands the importance of awareness when it comes to the methods we use as the industry evolves. Every project potentially can cause both beneficial and adverse effects. For example, a plan that brings solar energy to a grid and helps the environment can, in turn, cause prices to rise and prohibit low-income families from purchasing the energy. It is imperative to be aware of these types of unintended consequences and prevent them when possible, and Campos is making sure this is understood. Throughout his career he has been a voice for those who have been underserved and overlooked and aims to ensure that any progress made does not harm already struggling communities. “We all seek a clean and healthy environment that won’t be polluted by our energy production sources,” he says. “We need to really look at the unintended effects that are just as important to our lives as the pollutants themselves.”
We must ensure that as we are finding solutions to one problem, we are not having an abrupt and traumatic effect on another. When we look at the picture from every angle it is easy to see that the answer is not to shut down industries like oil and gas. While they may create pollution, they are also providing medicine, employment and assets beyond measure that provide for the quality of life and well-being of our nation.
“People don’t understand what petrochemicals do for us; they only understand the negative aspects,” Campos says. “While it is important to further advance green alternatives, doing so in a way that augments and integrates with our current system is what will allow for gradual evolution over time.” He is adamant about increasing the awareness as to why our oil and gas industry is essential and inspires people to think of ways to make the industry more efficient, rather than try to replace it altogether at this time. “National security comes down to our stability and viability as a country to survive.” As it stands, the oil industry is absolutely necessary to that national security. Over time he is confident we will evolve into newer resources, but we can’t expect to do it overnight. There would be a ripple effect that would cause trauma to the way our lives are currently lived in a multitude of unimaginable ways.
“Historically, energy has been a slow evolutionary process in its development. From the use of sperm whales for lanterns, and coal for heating and electric generation, to oil and gas for transportation. This progress evolved over the course of a century, and now the United States, and the world, are yet again experiencing another stage of development in mass energy production but this time it’s more revolutionary than evolutionary. We are currently looking at different forms of energy, a renaissance of sorts, a tapestry mix of different cleaner energy sources to the grid from micro nuclear reactors, geo-thermal, solar, wind, hydrogen and oceanic sources, to name a few,” he explains. “However, as we as a nation search for cleaner sources of energy, we must also keep in mind the various consequences of energy sources on our society, not just climate change. While the issue of climate change is very important, we need a balanced ‘all of the above’ energy strategy approach that utilizes existing proven energy sources while advancing other sources, without causing major disruptions to the overall well-being of our most vulnerable communities,” he asserts.
When it comes to policy, Campos is sensitive to the delicate balance that’s needed when it comes to innovation and humanity. That sensitivity is well balanced with a pragmatic and unrelenting passion to create energy initiatives that will have a beneficial impact for our environment, without harming our economy. He is adamant that new clean energy initiatives must not only provide equal opportunities, but equal benefits and accessibility to our communities across the board. He is asking the tough questions and addressing this dilemma head-on. Campos has the resilience and determination to ensure that, as progress is being made, we are not forgetting about the people.
Speaking of the people, Campos reminds us of some low hanging fruit in our future workforce by recognizing the need to inspire our youth, young women in particular, to get into STEM. “When a little boy plays with Legos we think, ‘Oh, he’ll be an architect,’ and we support that with resources to cultivate it. When a little girl plays with a doll or kitchen set, right away many of us think of her as a homemaker, which is an incredibly valuable job indeed, but maybe she could be a doctor or biophysicist? If she likes baking, that could make her a chef, or it could make her a chemist. It is up to us to provide her with the appropriate resources to make that choice for herself. We are encouraging involvement in industries that have traditionally been male dominated due to outdated societal beliefs. Many of these beliefs were/are established during childhood and taken into adulthood.”
“Women now account for 50 percent of new college students, and most of them are going into sociology and psychology. Valuable minds are being lost to other fields between ages 3-8, because the programs in place don’t focus them on STEM as much as they should,” Campos explains. “It’s during childhood that a person is taught what they are capable of and the seeds for our future are planted. We must ensure that STEM resources are available and encouraged for all of our children from an early age.” Campos has already made enormous efforts in this direction, with investments like the state-of-the-art Weiss Energy Hall exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The installment is geared toward generating children’s engagement in the future of our energy industry using immersive virtual reality and state of the art visuals. Having as many minds as possible inspired and equipped to create augmentations for our current systems is vital for progress as a whole.
“We need smart, sustainable and compassionate energy policies that do not further hurt our communities, and at the same time help keep Americans employed and our economy flourishing. The psychological and physical impact from lack of resources can be equally as devastating as the pollutants that we are currently focused on.”
At a time when our country is forging new systems and initiating new protocols, it is paramount that we take into consideration the most inclusive and beneficial structure to advance humanity and our environment as a whole. Energy is essential and access to it should not be limited or defined by income, gender or race. While this cause is at the forefront of Campos’ efforts now, his mindset mirrors that of some of our greatest leaders and his movement toward education, equality and advancement for all is at its dawn. He has already been awarded accolades like the Professional Service Award and the Most Influential Hispanics in Business Award. It is a rare occasion when we see representatives that intrinsically care about humanity and its evolution, which is why voices like James E. Campos’ are appreciated and necessary components for our nation, and our planet, to advance with integrity.