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Vivian Norris Headshot

Green Energy Boys Not So Different Than the Good Ole Oil Boys

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I just saw the film, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps last night, sitting next to one of the heads of technology for a major bank, and we both had the same feeling at the end of the film. Basically all of the good ole banking boys (there was one woman in those Fed meetings...that is the real problem in the financial world, not enough women!) in cahoots with the black gold kingpins were focusing on oil shale and African oil field investments. But the young "hero" of the film was just as greedy in wanting to focus on green energy. Someone explain to me how, if they were going to altruistically donate their $100 million investment in fusion, they were going to afford that Manhattan penthouse apartment, no matter how bohemian it was!? Or perhaps they were living off the Soros/Papa gone to London hedge fund money Gordon Gekko had made for them. Either way, Greed is Still Good was still the message twenty years later and that is the problem!

Perhaps the best part of the film was the founder of the financial firm based on Lehman's Fuld mixed in with a little bit of old school Wall Street throwing himself in front of the subway train. I had just said to my French banker friend that somehow the French still actually felt real remorse, and "moral hazard" still had real meaning. I mean the head of the will-not-be-mentioned French bank which just helped send a trader to jail had a nervous breakdown and left his post. And the Connecticut-based French financial advisor who lost his clients huge amounts of money with Madoff offed himself.

I'm not saying suicide is the answer, I'm just saying these guys actually took a hit and "admitted" they screwed up royally. There is some kind of honor in actually paying personally, emotionally for hurting people and having not done one's due diligence. Most of the financial greed seekers just hit the ground running greedily again after losing money on their empty bubble-based swaps, flips and derivatives. There is no moral hazard of any kind! Of course they think they can get away with it because they can. And once they have gutted our country they will just move on to London if they have not already or Paris (where I see and hear more and more New Yorkers and bankers every day!) or Asia or bunker down in their 100,000 acre estancia in Paraguay.

What worries me about the new Green Good Ole Boys is the Self-Righteous holier than Thou trope that they are doing so much good for the planet that it does not matter if they are indeed moral humans (or not). Those who made millions and billions in the dirty Wall Street old energy way are just green-wahsing themselves and, in some cases just making more money creating what could be the green energy bubble. I will not name names but there are quite a few now living in multimillion dollar West Coast homes pretending to be so wonderful and evolved and green when in reality it's just a bunch of male egos, including former politicos who are running things in the new green world.

And as a woman from Texas who grew up with a close look at how the Oil Good Ole Boys operated all my life, I am frankly even more scared of the Green Tech Good Ole Boys. At least with the oilmen, I knew what I was dealing with and they did not even try to hide that they were focused on power, control, profits and sexist, macho gun-toting racist everything. The Green Boys actually pretend to be about Equality and Sustainability and Democracy, but they are just as obsessed as the oil and Wall Street guys with accumulating more, having more power and "buying" arm candy, all with a do-gooder smile on their faces. This hypocrisy is going to ruin us sooner or later.

The Green Boys could make some real changes, firstly by being more inclusive of women executives leading the way, whether in finance or running the green energy companies. They could also start building green energy companies in places where the good ole boy system needs to be challenged and though there are some green biotech companies in places like Houston, I would invite the green boys to help rebuild the poverty stricken Gulf Coast area with electric car factories and green energy plants.

But will old fashioned attitudes still limit the presence of women in the new energy sector? When there are too many official real working women around on the private (green?) jets, that kind of ruins the deal. I mean the wedding rings have to stay on and all that. In Houston, there used to be (still is?) a private men's club called the Normandy Club, which I believe was in the basement of the Texas Commerce Tower or some old bank or oil company building downtown, where the deals would be signed over lunches with scotch and mistresses and sexy waitresses and lawyers coming down with papers from the offices above all to be signed in the atmosphere of a boys' club. Be it the golf playing or the hunting or the boys' weekends in Cabo, nothing has really changed as the new Green boys have their own hierarchy of politicos and start-up dudes to fawn over. And that money racing to finance them also comes from the male-dominated banking sphere. Not a lot of women present however.

And this is a real problem, because we need real women in positions of power with the real ability to change things. Not the Meg Whitman types, but those who did not have to play the man's game to succeed, but who actually are just plain smart, and not scared of confronting the status quo. We don't need Tea Party reactionaries and Sarah Palinites but serious, thoughtful women we can all respect. If a woman had bought the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times instead of Sam Zell, I hope and imagine she would not have placed a bunch of macho sexist idiots in control, who aided women who literally kissed and slept their way up the ladder, to run what should be considered a respectable business which has a huge responsibility to actually keep Americans informed! Who raised these people? And what kind of corporate culture keeps this kind of insanity going? This is going to be the ruin of our country, putting egos like these and unevolved, sexist men in charge of the backbone of our financial, energy and media sectors!?! Then they go and fire the security folks who reported the misdoings instead of the abusive executives! What is the world coming to?! If these guys keep getting away with it they will keep doing it. It has to be stopped

Countries in Scandinavia demonstrate that you can have an extremely successful and sustainable business and energy sector and still promote women to positions of real authority and even grow when the rest of the world is falling apart. Interestingly enough there is more private-public cooperation. In our purely private capitalistic system, part of the problem is that men tend to run things. I studied this when writing a dissertation on Globalization and Media. I want to see successful brilliant women alongside our President helping make serious decisions about the future of our country, and I want to see them in the boardrooms and running this new green energy sector! Get some modern humans in there, and some real women. Or we are headed for more of the same old same old and the United States will be going nowhere fast.

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