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Energize America: CRASHING THE HILL … Yearly Kos, Chicago, part 3

August 14th, 2007 · 2 Comments

Energize America, the people-powered plan for a sustainable energy future, has evolved.  Evolved from unknown bloggers sharing concerns about mounting energy problems, to a blogger community developing a holistic approach, to the blogosphere working with Congress to develop specific legislative approaches to help deal with the nation’s challenges.

At  YearlyKos 2007, the EA2020 team reviewed the process, discussed achievements to date, and lay a path into the future.

This is the third portion of the presentation. Part 1, From Nowhere to Vegas, covered the beginning of the effort. Part 2, From Vegas to Chicago developments through March, and here is part 3:  Crashing the Hill and charting a way forward.


My (user) name is A Siegel.  I am a CarboHolic.  My last full tank was two days ago, my last plane flight a week ago, and I am beginning to feel withdrawal staved off by the CO2 emitted for the electricity to be on the web.

Let us face facts. Richard Smalley (Terrawatt challenge (pdf)) was right. Take a moment to put Thelma & Louise postertogether a list of the top ten challenges for humanity for the 21st century. Your list might include global economic growth, health issues, hunger, environmental destruction, climate change, water, terrorism and others.  When considering such a list, there is at least one common thread.  All are worsened by a future dominated by an expensive, uncertain, unevenly available, polluting energy system.  And, all will face eased solution with a future dominated by a clean, sustainable, readily accessible, fairly distributed, and reasonably priced (if not inexpensive) power solutions.

At this time, the United States is hurtling toward the cliff like Thelma & Louise, but we’re in our Hummers rather than a convertible. And, we are dragging the world … and future generations … behind us, bound hand and foot by our dangerous habits and shaky energy structure.

My name is A Siegel.  And, I am a CarboHolic.

Unlike President Bush, however, we are able to get past that first step in a twelve-step. We recognize the problem. And, we recognize that we are not powerless — we have the ability to change, to take control of the situation, to turn ourselves away from that addiction. We decided to figure out what we (as individuals, communities, and country) could do about it.

And, we are acting to seek that change. To end that addiction.  To set the path to Energize America for a sustainable and prosperous energy future.

Slide:  Four march proposals
As discussed in From Vegas to Chicago, in March 2007, after two months of extensive night and weekend work, the Energize America team delivered to Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-9) four legislative concepts, developed at her request.

Two of these directly developed from the original 20 point plan (Energy Smart Communities Bonds (ESCB) Act(delivered as the Neighborhood Power Act (see also this background paper) and the Micro-Power Producers Act (Net Metering; see also comparison with then existing legislation).

One was newly developed at Marcy’s direct request (Community Emergency Power Act) and the last newly developed within the team (Bio Fertilizer Production Act).

These four, discrete, concepts ranged from nearly zero Federal expenditures (Net Metering regulation) to billion dollar per year efforts.  Each, in their own way, was unique to the discussion process on the Hill, not covered within existing legislation.

Marcy and her Chief of Staff decided to push the ESCBs and Bio-Fertilizer Act to legislative counsel for writing as bills.

With delivery of these four, Slide: Obstacles SMALLthe team took a pause, mentally preparing for a push to help gain co-sponsors for legislation to come within, perhaps, just a few weeks.

Reality settled in, bit-by-bit. Truth is, the team developed concepts. This is a partnership and, relative to Hill expertise, we determined that we were not the ones to put these bills into actual language.  Thus, to legislative counsel the two concepts went … where they remain still.

We have been identifying (learning) lessons throughout this process. One clear one: it is difficult to be heard when singing solo.

We had / have compelling concepts that, when discussed, draw attention. But, a volunteer effort, operating virtually, without clear partnerships and links to other organizations, tackling issues of such import, faces an uphill climb.  There is no one whose “job” is to walk the Halls of Congress.  No liaison staff with the myriad of other (excellent) organizations out there seeking to develop better energy policy and concepts.  A clear lesson:  we should be working with others, not singing solo, but finding a choir. Sometimes, occasionally, we might be “the soloist” but, when they are in accord with our core values and vision for a future, the Energize America community (Netroots Nation activists concerned about energy) must be prepared to be vigorous backup singers for others’ good ideas and viable proposals.

When, of course, those are in accord with our core values.

Slide:  Core values

Values matter.

We are all, when it comes done to it, “Values Voters”.

Values matter, thus we have extensively discussed Energize America’s core values internally and openly.

Perhaps the central, core concept is to:

Make the right choice, the easy choice.

Right now, throughout US society, bad choices re energy are often the easy choice — for individuals, businesses, and government. Whether it is the mental focus on that upfront purchase price (the ‘cost to buy’) as opposed to how much it will actually cost to run the system (cost to own) (in other words, how many people think about electricity use when buying a TV or new alarm clock) or tax code that favors financially current energy use over capital investment for greater energy efficiency, American society often favors more wasteful energy use when the right choice could be made easy, could be favored.

Thus, we seek out paths to to make the right choice the easy choice for government, businesses and consumers.

And, as a corollary, as America moves toward an Energy Smart future, that right choice, that easy choice, will become ever more the most attractive choice as well.

Within the efforts in 2007, the focus has not been on the 20-point, holistic plan but on the development of discrete actions that fit with that core philosophy, that seem unique within the legislative discussion, that help advance the nation on the path toward a sustainable and prosperous future, and that seem possible to pass with real bipartisan support to be signed into law.

Doing so will help create an Energy Smart culture across society, for individuals, communities, businesses, and government (local, state and federal levels).

Let us focus on one act, the one that is furthest along, that seems set to be introduced as legislation this fall: the Energy Smart Communities Bond (ESCB) program.

Slide:  Energy Smart Communities Act

The ESCA (ESCBs) seeks to foster that Energy Smart Culture.  This program sets into place a partnership between the Federal government and local governments thorughout the country. Federal expertise in energy efficiency and renewable energy, Federal expertise in bond structuring, Federal assistance with upfront funding combined with local knowledge and local requirements to help create Energy Smart local government infrastructures throughout the country.

What are core ESCB features?

  • Focused on local government infrastructure as a key node toward fostering a more energy efficient society.
  • Self-sustaining as the energy savings would pay for the bonds. It is not difficult to set up energy efficiency programs with 15-20-25% savings per year on invested dollars, quite a lot higher than the six percent (or so) that a community would pay on a bond.
  • Create a Federal-State-Local partnership throughout the country. Federal expertise in energy efficiency and renewable energy, Federal expertise in bond structuring, Federal assistance with upfront funding combined with local knowledge and local requirements to help create Energy Smart local government infrastructures throughout the country.
  • Creates a repeatable and trackable program as communities can learn from each other’s successes (and failures), with the federal experts serving as a node to foster that learning. The structure also enables a tracking of achievements with real and measurable metrics: energy savings, pollution reduction, jobs created, and money saved.  The taxpayer will be able to know that their dollars are being well spent.
  • Fosters capacity building throughout the nation for eased energy efficiency and renewable energy projects by individuals and businesses. People will learn about the payoffs, inspectors will gain expertise that will ease projects, and private buisnesses will expand their capacity to do this work.  While the ESCB will have direct impact, this indirect impact could be far greater and help in fostering a burgeoning of “Green Jobs” throughout the nation.

The Energy Smart Communities Bonds (ESCB) would help Make the Right Choice the Easy Choice for local governments in all the states and territories.  Right now, for many communities, energy is the second largest expense after personnel. The ESCB would address that arena. The ESCB is not just Energy Smart, but also

  • Environmentally Smart through reduction of energy-related pollution;
  • Health Smart as occupants of energy efficiency structures (Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED)) structures are more productive and healthier.
  • Economically Smart through job creation and fostering of private business activity;
  • Socially Smart through the fostering of knowledge and capacity for a sustainable and prosperous future; and,
  • Financially Smart, helping governments throughout the country run more efficiently and therefore more judiciously using the citizens’ taxes in delivering services.

The ESCBs would help Make the Right Choice the Easy Choice and make the right choice the attractive choice for local governments when it comes to energy use.

But, is this good idea going anywhere?
Slide What Next
It just might be …

The concept, the act, is building interest … from both sides of the aisle.

There is a commitment for introducing ESCB legislation in the fall.

What does that mean?

We stand ready to foster this, to help gain co-sponsors and speak our voices to rally support for the ESCBs.

We are engaged is seeking and developing other unique concepts that fall within Energize America’s core values and that can help in creating that sustainable and prosperous energy future.

We are ready — anxious — to expand the Energize America community.

Slide 32: Now you can help
You can help

The work is not done.

Our voyage together, to change the path of the nation toward a sustainable and prosperous future, to traverse the treacheries of Peak Oil and Global Warming, has just begun.

You can help.

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur

I hope that you will join me, my Congressional colleagues and the Energize America team as we draft and work to pass energy legislation that truly addresses America’s strategic energy needs.  The power of blogs such as the Daily Kos, combined with an objective process, clear objectives and committed volunteers can unleash a new era of ‘citizen-centered’ power to change policy.  I hope that you will continue to contribute your time and expertise to topics that concern you.  Help enable the future of ‘people-powered politics.’

You can help

You can participate in web discussions.

You can call your Representative and ask them to contact Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur‘s office to be on the ground floor of the ESCB, co-sponsoring the legislation today, before it is even introduced.

You can get your local leaders (political and otherwise) to contact your Representative in support of the ESCB.

You can communicate and spread the information and message.

Do you know people who want their children’s schools to be more comfortable? Who want to work in an energy efficient and healthier work place? Who want their communities to pollute less? Who would welcome more businesses that could help them make their homes energy efficient? Who care about how their local taxes are spent?

I do.

Energize America’s potential constituency is every American.

You can help build that constituency.

Now, the real push will come this fall as we work with Marcy Kaptur to create a new program, to move the Energy Smart Community Bonds from interesting concept to law.

And, if this occurs, we will be on the path to revolutionizing the relationship between you, me, us and our Congressional representation.

Slide 33 Energy Smart Alliance

As said above, one of the core lessons is that singing solo is not necessarily the best path forward. Currently being organized as a non-profit organization, the Energy Smart Alliance will seek to form partnerships and create links to give greater voice to people-powered engagement with the legislative concepts.  There are several organizations signed up to be charter members and discussions under way to expand the relationhips and empower the citizens’ voices in legislative development.

After the presentation

While others should speak up in the comments, let me tell you that the presentation went well. We simply did not have time to handle all the questions. And, well,those in the room continued the discussion afterward … and through the days that followed.

It is too early to go into details, but this positive reaction came from staff members from other members of Congress  and organizations seeking to support passage of Energize America developed concepts.  We expect to, in the coming month, have real breakthroughs to announce, to discuss …

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) was scheduled to be part of the panel but was unable to due to votes in the House of Representatives. According to Earl,

Your innovative approach to involving the public in the crazy process of legislating is something that I hope can be replicated on other issues.  You have begun to harness a new technology of engagement, and I think the impacts of your work can be huge.

We are onto something here.

We are developing a template, to be learned from, that could create a new path for citizen-policy interaction.

And, what could emerge from that new path?

Our focus remains on developing paths to Make The Right Choice the Easy Choice.

Paths that will strengthen America and improve the lives of all Americans, from today into the future.

We seek to foster an Energy Smart Culture.

We will Energize America to a prosperous and sustainable energy future.

Join us in making this vision a reality.

Ask yourself:

Are you doing
your part to


Are you ready
to do your part?

Your voice can
… and will make a difference.

So … SPEAK UP … NOW!!!

Cross-posted from Energize America.

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