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E2 Members Travel to Washington
On May 11 and 12, eighteen E2 members attended a marathon two days of meetings with over 40 members of Congress. This third annual E2 legislative trip focused on building bipartisan support for addressing global warming, reducing our nation's dependence on oil, and improving the economic vitality of our oceans.
In order to prepare for these meetings, E2 sponsored or produced new research that demonstrated the link between economic prosperity and solving environmental problems. These materials included:
Our focus for this trip was not only to provide new information for legislators who are actively working on our priority issues, but also to reach new members of Congress, including those who have not traditionally been supportive of these policies.
Our complete list of meetings is outlined below:
What we learned
Global Warming - We were encouraged to find that there is increased interest in addressing global warming in the Senate. While more legislators are publicly acknowledging that global warming is a serious threat that must be addressed, there is still no consensus on the best approach to diminish that threat. E2 continues to support the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act (CSA) and we provided new data - including our state-based papers and a broader study on jobs - to show its economic benefits. Senator Hagel (R-NE) has also introduced a set of climate change proposals. While we do not believe these go far enough, it was refreshing to discuss how to solve the problem of global warming with Congress, rather than discuss whether or not it is a problem.
Climate Stewardship Act - The CSA is likely to be offered as an amendment to the energy bill this year. Independent of whether the energy bill itself will actually pass both houses of Congress, having the CSA passed as an amendment would be a significant step forward. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on the most cost-effective solutions to emissions reduction, several amendments for the CSA currently being considered would create large subsidies to selected industries. We left our meetings without a clear idea of how this would be resolved and will spend the next several weeks trying to help move the bill forward.
Renewable Fuel Standard - Members of both houses expressed serious interest in establishing a national renewable fuel standard (RFS) for transportation fuel. E2 supports a proposal by NRDC to combine the RFS with a requirement that 1 billion gallons of ethanol come from cellulosic (biomass) sources and to ensure that the requirement does not weaken air quality (see "Can Biofuels Replace Oil?" for a discussion of renewable fuels). The RFS discussion is happening at a time when fuels like E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) are frequently less expensive per mile driven than regular gasoline. If we can continue to reduce the cost of fuels like ethanol by making the fuel from waste materials as well as corn, the U.S. has a real opportunity to eliminate the need to import foreign oil. (Oil imports currently account for 25% of our total trade deficit.)
Ocean Policy - We were encouraged by the bipartisan interest in improving ocean policies. We delivered our message that a restored ocean ecosystem would create more jobs, economic value and improved quality of life, and the longer we delay, the more opportunity will be lost. However, it was not clear when and how the various ocean proposals would move through Congress.
E2 Message Well Received - Every office with which we met was supportive of E2's mission and encouraged us to continue our work. Several offices asked that we collaborate with them on policy issues. While our supporters appreciated the visits and the new material that we were able to provide them, several of them said we should spend more time with the "unconvinced" and focus on the economic benefits of environmental policies to their constituents.
What We Accomplished
This was our third annual trip to Washington D.C. Each year more members of Congress know who we are and use E2 as an information source. Yet we are a long way from achieving our goals on climate policy, energy policy and ocean restoration. Our work at the state level - especially in California - produces more results, partly because many states are actively pursuing good energy and ocean policy, and partly because state politics are less complicated than those in Congress. Nonetheless, we were very pleased with the results from this trip:
We asked members of the E2 delegation to comment on their experience in Washington. Here are some of the things they had to say:
This E2 DC lobbying trip was the most interesting thing I've done professionally in a while. It was exciting to have a real-life venue where I learned how to voice my support and was present to show support for the environment in the halls of power with decision makers. - Andrew Currie
The interesting thing about this  year's visit was that we reached a new group - swing state Republicans - who were very receptive to our business-oriented message. - Berl Hartman
The DC trip reinforced for me the vital need for an effective business voice for the environment, and the very real opportunity we have to make a difference. - Julius Genachowski
As a business person, I have found myself far removed from political life in day-to-day tasks. E2 has opened my eyes to the issues facing clean tech, oceans, energy and climate concerns we face every day nationally and internationally. My two days in DC were very stimulating and focused on these issues. I found my E2 cohorts and NRDC staff to be great coaches in this practice. Observing the responses of Senators McCain (R-AZ), Smith (R-OR), Wyden (D-OR), and Conrad (D-ND), and Representatives Baird (D-WA), Farr (D-CA), and others in our small meetings, I could see first-hand how great their knowledge on the issues, how generous their willingness to listen, how honed their political skills and how clear their agendas were. As with a good credit card, this experience was priceless! The entire trip reconfirmed my commitment to the political process and leaves me looking forward to future trips with E2 to Washington and my local representatives. - Jay Baldwin
In a very professional manner, the E2 delegation delivered a practical, science-based and economically sustainable message to deal with the pressing environmental issues of our day. - Paul Sellew
The voice of independent business people providing careful analysis of the economic gains and business advantages that can result from good environmental policy is a rare one in Washington. - Kristine Johnson
This trip was immensely educational. The preparation for our meetings was excellent, and learning the economic rationale for why we must address climate change, alternative fuels, oceans and other critical issues was invaluable. I thoroughly enjoyed our trip, the talented group of E2 members and the fantastic, knowledgeable NRDC staff who prepared us and accompanied us on our meetings. - Heather Henriksen
The E2 trip to "the Hill" was exciting because it made me feel we could make a difference in what gets done. For example, having Senator Lugar's staff ask us for help on energy policy, or staying a few extra minutes to discuss with Senator McCain's staff why proposed McCain-Lieberman Act nuclear plant construction subsidies could be better applied to solving the nuclear waste dilemma or promoting energy conservation now, all made me feel that people cared and were listening. - John Cusack
Unlike my last trip two years ago, we met with people from both sides of the aisle. I came away with a greater sense that these environmental issues are THE issue of our time. We have to take the time to educate and work with all of our leaders. Yes, some are intractable, but we don't need to convert everyone. Only 30 years ago, the environment was everyone's issue. We can get there again. The stakes are too high to indulge ourselves in any attitude but optimism. - Bill Unger
As business people, not professional lobbyists, our message was respectfully considered by all, and embraced by a few. Our sizeable "to do" list, for both Republicans and Democrats, is a measure of the success of our meetings. - Nancy Floyd
I was deeply impressed by the team work and eloquence of the E2 delegation. Many of the participants had never met one another, and had certainly never talked directly to members of Congress - but in spite of the pressure, within 30 minutes our teams were sharing the floor, working off and supporting one another and delivering their messages with authority. - Nicole Lederer