Headshot of Ashley Lovett, and a quote “In working with BETO, I have come to understand the importance of research and development in advancing clean energy sources.”

Ashley Lovett, Communications Fellow
Bioenergy Technologies Office
U.S. Department of Energy

Environmental justice (EJ) is a basic human right to ensure that each person is protected from environmental hazards in their community, state, and country. It is a priority area incorporated into programs and policies at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and a major reason why I am committed to the work of DOE as a Communications Fellow.

In working with DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), I have come to understand the importance of research and development in advancing clean energy sources. I have also realized that the success of a clean energy transition in the United States is dependent upon justice and equity conversations and their implications.

Impact of Social Justice Communications in School and Career

My journey with the social justice aspect of communications started during my tenure as a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Under a generalist program, I was able to choose my areas of interest and I gravitated toward health and environmental research, dealing with marginalized populations and their unique standpoint in society.

Moving into a role with the BETO communications team, I have learned more about the role bioenergy plays in meeting the country’s demand for clean energy and what this means for disadvantaged communities. Through creating sustainable aviation fuel, developing consumer goods, and building biorefineries, BETO is at the forefront of exploring opportunities associated with the use of renewable biomass and waste resources.

My DOE Fellowship with the BETO Communications Team   

As a DOE Scholars fellow with the BETO communications team, I have learned how a communications team operates through a wide range of activities in promoting biofuels and bioproducts as sustainable technologies for the future.

I have a journalism background and have experience creating written materials for public consumption. However, grasping the day-to-day aspects of a communications team in a technical environment has helped me expand my knowledge of communications practices.

The activities of the team encompass many processes to educate the public on bioenergy, including:

  • Written materials for internal and external communications
  • Digital media strategy
  • Education and workforce development
  • Building stakeholder, industry, and media relationships
  • Working with the professionals at DOE national laboratories
  • Environmental justice initiatives

It is exciting to work in an environment where each day is different depending on the needs and requests of BETO stakeholders. I have always sought out purpose-driven work and I see the value in the efforts of the BETO Communications team collaborating with technical experts, such as scientists and engineers, to create content that educates and informs the public and industry on the value of bioenergy in sustainability.

Communications can include many tasks like:

  • Promoting a webinar to the public
  • Creating an educational tool that teachers can use to help students grasp bioenergy concepts
  • Pitching novel research and development stories to news media.

Tasks change daily and the deadline-driven environment helps to keep your writing and mind sharp in preparation for a variety of projects. Time management is key.

Environmental Justice Projects at BETO

A major ongoing project that I personally enjoy is the work being done in environmental justice and BETO’s approach to bioenergy with an equity lens.

I was recently involved in research on the displacement of fossil fuel workers in the clean energy transition and how that impacts workers and communities. Questions surrounding equity and equality are at the forefront and it has been eye-opening to learn how disadvantaged communities have been harmed by our fossil-based energy systems.

I have come to learn how the clean energy transition can help address social and energy justice issues as environmental and health burdens on the nation’s current energy system fall disproportionately on low-income communities and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).

I have also seen undue environmental and health burdens during my participation in the environmental justice teams within DOE and the work being done to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion goals ranging from analyzing language to creating government resources that are accessible to all. It is critical to not only complete work in finding environmental sustainability solutions, but to make considerations and changes when it comes to inclusivity in sharing government resources and assistance.

I am excited to continue learning from members of the Bioenergy Technologies Office. I look forward to sharing my own ideas when it comes to communicating BETO priorities while placing energy justice at the center of the important and innovative work being done to accelerate an equitable clean energy transition.