If you attended the fracking hearing at the McKimmon Center Wednesday, you might have heard a young man in an orange t-shirt. On the front of his tee it said in big letters “JOBS” and beneath it in smaller letters: “Powered by natural gas.”
Maybe you were some of the folks who booed his pro-fracking remarks to the hearing panel. Most of the 500 or so in attendance were there to oppose fracking.
Algenon Cash is chairman of the N.C. Energy Forum. His day job is at a Triad real estate investment banking firm.
Most business people wouldn’t be keen about getting up in front of a anti-fracking crowd in a pro-drilling t-shirt. Not Cash. After he spoke over boos from the crowd, he stood up in front of a WNCN TV camera outside the hearing room to proclaim: “If people are here simply to tell us no, well, no is not an energy policy.”
Some critics disparage groups such as Cash’s as “astroturf,” i.e., kind of synthetic; not really grass-roots. There are some two dozen state energy forums around the country. Nothing wrong with that. The American Petroleum Institute doesn’t hide its connection to these forums. At the bottom of the N.C. forum’s web site it says “Sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute,” and, for goodness sakes, David McGowan, executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Council, an API division, was sitting with us while I interviewed Cash.
The pro-energy side has every right to organize to influence public policy. Environmental groups are really good at this, maybe you’ve noticed.
“Five years ago,” Cash told me, “there was no one out there with a pro-energy message. There was no one out there trying to educate people around real facts.”
Cash believes we don’t have to spoil the environment to secure our energy future. “I don’t want my child out here drinking dirty water. I don’t want my child breathing dirty air.”
Cash gives 50-60 speeches around the state each year, and his typical speech opens by asking listeners if they are “energy voters.” Sometimes only a few hands go up. He then asks how many in the crowd drove to his speech (more hands go up), and how many are worried about the cost of heating their homes (more hands go up) and how many are worried about the cost of food (more hands go up). His point is that energy touches every facet of our economy, and we need to find more of it.