Energy Influencers #46 – #50

Energy Influencers #46 – #50

Here’s the next group that you’ll get to meet:

  #41 Ashok Gadgil (Scientist at U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) 
  #42 Josh Fox (Writer & Director of “Gasland”)
  #43 Greg Clark (Construction Services Program Manager at CESC)
  #44 Fu Chengyu (Chairman at Sinopec)
  #45 Dick Cheney (46th Vice President of the United States)


 #46 Ralph Cavanagh

Co-Director at Natural Resources Defense Council

San Francisco, California

Ralph Cavanagh is a senior attorney and Energy Program Co-Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).  NRDC is an environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.3 million members together with law and science to protect the environment.

Cavanagh is focused on the role of electric and natural gas utilities, and the opportunity to transform them into the economy’s most important clean energy investors.  In the Pacific Northwest and California he helped build coalitions of utilities, consumer groups, industries, regulators, and others to unleash the power of energy efficiency and renewable energy resources.

As an early recipient of the Heinz Award in Public Policy for his work in persuading legislators and regulators to permit utilities to earn money by saving energy, Cavanagh was commended for being “an optimist by nature who believes that win-win situations are possible with enough hard work.”

Cavanagh was also praised because he “epitomizes the power of the thinker, the convener, and the listener.”  That was true 15 years ago and still holds true today in his articles, videos & debates on sustainable energy, the shale revolution, wind and solar energy, nuclear power, and energy efficiency.

Cavanagh serves as a member on many clean/green boards, has received just as many awards, and contributes to the NRDC Switchboard blog in his spare time…thankfully without the legalese. 

 #47 Maria Cantwell

United States Senator for Washington State

Washington, D.C.

Maria Cantwell is a United States Senator for the Evergreen State of Washington.  In 2011 she was named Chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy.

Cantwell is probably best known for co-authoring the Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal (CLEAR) Act a few years ago which tried to incorporate a “cap-and-dividend” framework to reduce carbon emissions.  It died in 2010 but Cantwell will do what she can to bring it back to life.

But Cantwell has had better success with energy legislation and policy in 2011, albeit on a much smaller scale: supporting development of advanced biofuels, fighting to protect the Pacific Coast from offshore drilling, proposing offshore oil drilling rig safety legislation, boosting U.S. hydropower production, saving clean energy jobs, cracking down on oil speculation, voting to end subsidies to big oil, helping to spur domestic biodiesel production and encouraging technologies that make electric cars more efficient.

A chair of the Senate Democrats 20/20 Energy Independence campaign and co-chair of the Apollo Alliance, Cantwell is known for supporting alternative energy research and continues the fight to increase our nation’s energy independence and promote greater use of domestically produced biofuels.

Let’s hope 2012 finds her with more success in these clean energy endeavors.

#48 Scott Brown

Founder, CEO & Managing Partner at New Energy Capital

Boston, Massachusetts

While he believes going nuclear is an essential option to “put the planet on a much-needed low-carbon diet”, Scott Brown yearns for cost-effective renewable technologies that could generate round-the-clock energy at reasonable cost…so he is investing in their future.

Founded by Brown in 2004, New Energy Capital (NEC) is a private equity fund focused on investments in renewable energy, distributed generation and energy productivity projects.

Having legacy investments in ethanol, cogeneration, biomass (wood) and biodiesel projects, NEC has recently invested in biogas, fuel cell & solar through its Cleantech Infrastructure Fund.

By participating in the largest integrated fuel cell project in the nation, NEC has invested $23.5 million of this fund in turning waste into energy.  This beneficial use of digester gas (BUDG) project will run on renewable biogas generated from wasted methane gas at the City of San Diego wastewater treatment plant and will serve as a model for future biogas projects.

Having previous experience in the photovoltaic industry, Brown also led NECs recent $12 million investment in FLS Energy, the nation’s largest installer of commercial solar hot water systems and one of the largest regional integrators of photovoltaic solar systems.

Although Brown believes that “solar, wind, geothermal and biomass power can provide, at best, 20 to 30 percent of the power Americans require”, he continues to invest in a clean and renewable future.

Otherwise we’ll all have to go nuclear….literally and figuratively.

#49 Eric Besson

French Minister of Industry, Energy and the Digital Economy


Nuclear power is the primary source of electric power in France.  In September France’s energy minister Éric Besson created a commission to study all possible scenarios, including for the first time the possibility of doing away with nuclear energy.

Though public opinion and Green Party presidential candidate Eva Joly may favor pulling out of nuclear altogether, Besson said the EU needs to keep nuclear to “decarbonize” and that a pullout “is not my conviction…but at the same time we can’t exclude anything.”

That said, Besson has been busy to include anything on renewable energy development…whether he was opening a new photovoltaic facility in southeastern France, financing a solar energy plan in Morocco, or facilitating offshore wind farms along the coasts of Britanny and Normandy, Besson had quite an “energy mix” going in 2011. 

#50 Alan Armstrong

President & CEO of The Williams Companies

Tulsa, Oklahoma

In January 2011 Alan Armstrong became president and chief executive officer of Williams, one of the leading energy infrastructure companies in North America.  He succeeded Steve Malcolm who retired after guiding Williams from the brink of bankruptcy.

Additionally, Armstrong serves as chairman of the board and chief executive officer for Williams Partners L.P., the master limited partnership that owns most of Williams’ gas pipeline and domestic midstream assets.

Armstrong serves on a mile-long list of boards for industry associations and community organizations as well….ready?….Gas Processors Association, Natural Gas Supply Association, American Petroleum Institute, American Exploration and Production Council, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Business Roundtable, Junior Achievement of Oklahoma, Tulsa Metro Chamber, Tulsa’s Future II Oversight Committee, The Williams Foundation…and I’m sure I missed a few others.  He also speaks at numerous energy conferences, seminars and philanthropic events in his spare time.

Having been with Williams in escalating capacities since he stepped out of college, 2011 was no rookie year for Armstrong and he went right to work separating the company’s businesses into two stand-alone, publicly traded corporations….Williams (energy infrastructure) and WPX Energy (exploration & production).

While Armstrong claims this spin-off was to enhance value, growth potential and focus (the usual reasons of course), I think Armstrong just wanted to clean his plate a little…so he can add more servings in 2012.

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