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John Hofmeister

Former Shell Oil President, Top Gov. Snyder Staff Share Vision for American Energy Renaissance at Major Detroit-Area Forum

John Hofmeister talks with Kirk Heinze

By Mackenzie Mohr

In a landmark gathering near Detroit Friday May 10, an unlikely alliance of unions, the energy industry and top staff of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder shared their vision for a new American energy renaissance built on abundant, affordable energy.
“Building Michigan’s Energy Future: How a Smart Energy Policy Will Create Jobs and Power Michigan’s Economy,” included discussion of how energy production can spark economic growth, increase energy independence, revitalize unions and create thousands of good jobs in the Great Lakes state and across the country.

The event’s featured speaker was John Hofmeister, founder and chief executive of Citizens for Affordable Energy, or CFAE, and former president of Shell Oil Company.
“What I learned when I was Shell president, was that one of the issues facing us and the energy future of this country,” he says, “was the awareness, or the amount of knowledge, that people carry around in their heads about energy.”
Hofmeister left Shell Oil Company to found Citizens for Affordable Energy, a nonprofit that educates people about how to go green at the local level. He says CFAE was founded on a non-partisan platform in 2011 to educate citizens and government officials about affordable energy solutions, environmental protection, energy alternatives, efficiency, infrastructure, public policy, competitiveness, social cohesion, and quality of life.
“We’re funded only by consumers,” Hofmeister says. “We are not funded by energy companies; therefore, our message is crystal clear to consumers: this is about you.”
As the author of “Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk from an Energy Insider,” he says private capital can power an energy renaissance, but that government must build a framework and enable development.
“Twenty-first century prosperity is on the horizon if we have energy investment that leads to a revamping of our entire energy infrastructure,” Hofmeister said. “We must make energy more affordable and have more supply than we have demand.”

Citizens for Affordable Energy directly engages citizens and leaders across the country through membership, seminars, panels, advertising, networking, and web-enabled communications to deliver an environmentally conscious national energy security plan for the short, medium and long term benefit of the nation. However, Hofmeister says the CFAE can only do so much.
“Politics is really the death of our energy future because we cannot agree,” he says, “(on) what is in the best interest of the nation.”
Gov. Snyder’s message on energy and the environment is a step in the right direction, Hofmeister says, and is full of prospect.
There are three major priorities in energy supply for Michigan, he says: introducing new technologies in natural gas, increasing renewable energy use, and building the supply chain in Michigan to support energy-inward investment.
“I’m a big fan of energy investment for the sake of the people who benefit from that energy,” Hofmeister says. “Why not focus on it as a major part of the future economic development of the state of Michigan?”
Renewable energy though, he says, is not ready to be commercialized. Solar, wind, biofuels and biomass need to further use technology and become more productive to meet demand; a project that Michigan university biochemists can accelerate.
“It’s not that we’re slowing down renewables by investing in natural gas or oil,” Hofmeister says, “it’s that we need all of the above over time.”
Despite an expected decrease in the oil share, job growth in oil and gas extraction is expected to increase. Between 2009 and 2011, midstream oil and gas pipeline construction jobs increased by 8 percent and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects growth of 14.6 percent through 2020.
“What can we help industry to do? Industry creates jobs. Government doesn’t create jobs,” Hofmeister says. “What we need in this country is economic movement.”

Greening of the Great Lakes airs every Sunday at 7 p.m. on News/Talk 760 WJR and around the state each weekend on the Michigan Talk Network.  Please follow us on Twitter.


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