Top of Mind: Jim Gordon, Extended Version

JB: This business opportunity that you saw—when you were talking about being in the gas lines—sometimes it sounds driven by environmentalism, but at other times by energy security, too?

JG: When I started in this business, the United States was importing 28 percent of its energy. We went through these two embargoes, and we recognized that there’s a cartel of foreign energy producers that in effect can have a significant impact on our economy and our national security, so what drove me to get into this business was I felt that it was important to move to greater energy independence. I’m sad to say that now we’re importing over 60 percent of our energy from foreign suppliers.

…We wind up in a precarious situation. Just a year ago the price of oil was $145 per barrel. We find ourselves in an economic crisis and, yes, it was credit markets and a housing bubble, but also when the cost of gasoline is $4.50, and it costs $3.50 for a gallon of heating oil, that has a very negative impact on our economy as well.

When we flick the light switch on, is that going to trigger a mountaintop in Appalachia to blow up? Is that going to trigger a barge moving from a Saudi Arabian port here or liquefied natural gas from Nigeria? We take for granted where our energy comes from, and I firmly believe that if we can locally harvest sustainable energy sources then we’re going to improve the health, the prosperity, and the environment of our communities.

JB: Did you go into the energy business with a thick skin, or has being in the business given you one?

JG:
I grew up in a middle-class household. My dad owned a couple of corner grocery stores in the Allston-Brighton area, and since I was 12, I would go after school or on weekends and work at my father’s grocery store. It was a very interesting community—it was blue-collar, it was loaded with college students, and in the ’60s and ’70s era, it was a great education. You learn how to deal with people.

…The thick skin comes from the fact that even though some of the criticism is leveled at me personally, I don’t take it personally. I understand there are people who have a fear of the unknown; I understand there is a resistance to change; I understand people may lash out in different areas, if they’re concerned about their property values or a change in the landscape. No matter how unfounded the fear may be or the criticism leveled at me may be, I just don’t take it personally.

JB: With noteworthy political opponents like Senator Edward Kennedy, did you ever have the opportunity to make your case, one-on-one?

JG:
I have a lot of respect for Senator Kennedy—I did have a meeting with him. It was a very amicable meeting. …I’m just hoping he will look at the record and recognize that Massachusetts wants a renewable-energy future and that our citizens want a better future for their children. Certainly, I’m hoping he will at some point embrace this project

I’m grateful to Governor Patrick and [Energy and Environmental Affairs] Secretary Ian Bowles, who…have outlined very ambitious goals of getting 2,000 megawatts of electricity from wind in Massachusetts, and have realized that most of that will come from offshore wind. The legislature has been very supportive of this project.