Last week, I participated in the Clean Energy Network fly-in to Washington in support of comprehensive energy and climate change legislation. Although no single event is likely to overcome the US Senate’s inherent bias against action (on almost any major issue), the two-day effort made the compelling case for comprehensive energy and climate change legislation very clear.
Taking place during the pre-recess window to move legislation forward, though, there is much more to the story than that. So in this and a series of following posts, I’ll outline some key threads of what happened, and where we may go from here:
- The case for action
- The challenge of the last mile in the Senate
- The pivotal role Massachusetts and New England can play
- After the week-ending punt – next steps
A separate post summarizes of the available video from our Clean Energy Town Hall Meeting, held on Capitol Hill as part of the fly-in.
The Case for Action
The key arguments, distilled to their essence, are:
- Jobs and the economy – Unleash the innovation that has driven our economy for the last 60 years, and create up to 2 million new jobs in clean energy and technology – or lose them to countries in Europe and Asia who are taking action.
- National Security – Our dependence on foreign oil, and the money that flows from us to hostile nations to pay for it, is putting our troops and our national security at grave risk.
- Our environment and the future – Cutting carbon pollution will reduce the impacts of climate change, preserve jobs in agriculture and recreation, protect our health and provide a future for our children and grandchildren.
Each one by itself is a reason to act. Considered together, can there be a single one of the 100 US Senators that does not consider at least one of these a priority?
What truly gave the message its compelling power, though, was the breadth of the people and groups that delivered it.
Nearly to 200 people from about 20 states came to Washington. They were drawn not just from among the 80 grassroots organizations from around the US that make up the Clean Energy Works coalition, but from the extended networks of those groups.
The diversity of geography alone spoke volumes. If people from states as differently situated on energy and climate as Massachusetts, Alaska, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico, Michigan, Pennsylvania and South Dakota – can come together to speak to the imperative for comprehensive energy and climate legislation – surely their representatives can find a way to respond in kind.
The individual participants themselves brought a variety of backgrounds, experiences and interests. Each could speak personally to one or more of the arguments for action. In doing so, they brought with them the voices of many others like themselves. Those voices included:
- Small business people and entrepreneurs seeking the policy certainty that will unlock the investments and enable job creation in clean energy
- Veterans, appalled at the human cost of our armed forces’ and our country’s addiction to oil and frustrated that money flowing out of this country to pay for oil finds its way back in the explosive devices that cause those casualties
- Steelworkers and autoworkers wanting a commitment to clean energy that, by driving the growth of the market, will create jobs building wind turbines, alternative fuel vehicles and advanced batteries.
- Farmers, already seeing worrisome changes in crops and growing conditions and feeling ever more squeezed by their dependence on oil and petroleum-based fertilizers to grow and bring their crops to market.
- Faith-based organizations whose members and leaders see themselves unable to fulfill the fundamental mission for the stewardship of creation that their faith demands.
- Environmentalists concerned about the pollution, loss of habitat and changes destroying our natural environment
- Sportsmen, businesses and local officials worried about the loss of wildlife and the accompanying damage to recreation and related jobs
The diversity of this group is a powerful reminder of how broad and deep the desire to take action is in America. A poll done earlier in July by Benenson Strategy Group showed 60% in support of comprehensive action on energy and carbon pollution and 35% opposed. More tellingly, when the poll was prefaced by two strong advocacy messages – one for and one against, the numbers barely changed, with 57% supporting action and 33% opposing it.
- Benenson Strategy Group Memo, July 14, 2010.