Heather Reams is helping to lead the fight against climate change. And as a woman and a mom, she says she is in a unique position to push conservatives to help create a cleaner environment.
Reams, president of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a clean energy group that works closely with the congressional GOP, told Know Your Value that “as a mother, that perspective has helped a lot.”
Reams, who is the mom to a 13-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son, added that “mothers have a unique perspective of helping the world to be a better place for their children. But also, women who don't have children think about their nieces, their nephews, the children they're around. They think about the responsibility that we, as adults, must leave the planet in better place…”
Know Your Value spoke to Reams as part of this year’s National Clean Energy Week (Sept 26-30), which aims to bring awareness and support for clean energy solutions that address America’s economic, national security and environmental needs.
The week also happens to coincide with the release of a proposal by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. His Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022 aims to streamline the federal permitting process for energy projects, in addition to fast-tracking a pipeline that would impact his home state. Sen. Manchin is hoping for it to pass, although the bill faces opposition from both parties.
Reams, meanwhile, is using National Clean Energy Week to find “common ground” between the parties. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle will come together this week to speak about how to create a cleaner environment. The speakers at the Policy Makers Symposium include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and more.
National Clean Energy Week is sponsored by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES). Below is our conversation with Reams.
Know Your Value: Tell us about the start of National Clean Energy Week.
Reams: So, the first National Clean Energy Week was in 2017, when clean energy was exploding across every sector around the world. There was nothing to help recognize the value that clean energy brings for Americans – creating jobs, helping us become energy independent and, of course, keeping the environment clean. So, why not create a week to celebrate how amazing clean energy is?
Mind you, this was when the Trump Administration was just getting into full swing, and many people thought that the Trump Administration would not engage. We were fortunate to have both U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke highlight the federal role for expanding and advancing clean energy.
Know Your Value: What are your goals for clean energy moving forward? Why is environmental protection important for you personally?
Reams: I want National Clean Energy Week to be a space where companies, thought leaders and lawmakers can come together to recognize they are part of a solution and celebrate their achievements in the clean energy industry.
The environment became a very big issue for me when I became a mother—knowing that I need to help the world be a better place for my children. I realized the climate is changing and that there was something I could do about it. So, it just sort of clicked …
Know Your Value: How do you think being a woman has helped you push your party on climate change?
Reams: Well, certainly, as a mother, that perspective has helped a lot. Mothers have a unique perspective of helping the world to be a better place for their children. But also, women who don't have children think about their nieces, their nephews, the children they're around. They think about the responsibility that we, as adults, must leave the planet in better place. Technology and innovation allow us to get better and better at protecting the environment while expanding our energy security and creating great jobs here in the United States.
Know Your Value: What is it like to be a conservative woman in the clean energy space?
A lot of people think you can't be a Republican and care about the environment or engage on clean energy. I find I can align my conservative principles with the clean energy space. I think about competition, energy security, national security, economics, you name it. Then, I think as a female—as a parent particularly—about the next generation and making sure that we are leaving our earth better than we found it.
Know Your Value: How important is bipartisanship in the fight against climate change? How do you work to encourage lawmakers to work together from across the aisle?
Reams: We meet members of Congress where they are. They recognize there is a lot more in common than they realize, and their intentions are actually quite similar. The ultimate goal is the same, but they have a different path to get there. So, we find common ground. There was a time when there wasn’t anyone really looking for common ground. We're an organization that helps do that, and that's why National Clean Energy Week is so cool, too. It's a bipartisan week focused on Republicans and Democrats working together. Sometimes, you can't even tell who's a Republican and who's a Democrat when they’re speaking because they all want to solve this big problem while maintaining our economic and energy security.
Know Your Value: You’ve said that in your line of work, you’ve oftentimes found that you are the only woman in the room. Has that been challenging?
Reams: … In terms of being the only female in the room, it certainly happens, particularly in the energy space. I think I bring a different perspective to the room … I'm not necessarily sure I'm overlooked, but I know that my value in the room is giving a perspective others won't have. When you look around the room and you think, “OK, I might be the only mother; I might be the only parent; I might be the only person over 50 years of age.” I'm trying to find my unique value I can have in the room and be able to share that perspective.
Know Your Value: When you talk to your kids about climate change, what is that conversation like?
Reams: That the climate has changed. Weather patterns have changed since I was a child. I grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and so you were just aware of what was going on with the weather. In fact, my father is a retired meteorologist. So, I knew a lot about the weather and the ocean and how important it is to recycle. And I appreciated the beauty of the world and why we need to protect it.
We spend a lot of time on family vacations going to places to see nature and talk about how we can protect it. My children haven't spent a lot of time in big cities yet, but I do plan to bring them to New York City this year during Christmas. And they'll see the difference between a big city, and the beach, and a rural area, and the mountains. I’ll be able to continue to educate them about why we need to protect our planet—promoting a beautiful and habitable place by lowering pollution.
At a time where a lot of people are not so optimistic about the future, I'm incredibly hopeful. We are seeing bipartisanship and gaining it with regard to climate change. Republicans now are talking more and more about climate solutions. If you're somebody who cares about climate solutions, you should be cheering Republicans on that they are engaging more and more. And more bipartisan work creates that durability—durable policy for investors to continue to invest, for companies to continue to build, and for inventors to continue to invent. So, I am incredibly optimistic.