A Visit to the Capitol Markets (Part 3)

4/2/09Follow @jmatheson

~5pm, April 1—Outside the Library of Congress (it’s raining lightly, and hordes of students are milling about).

A full day of running around Capitol Hill began yesterday with the New England Clean Energy Council masses arriving at the Capitol Building just as it was having a security alert—again, April Fool’s or not? Turned out to be real, but we circumnavigated our way to a cramped briefing room inside the Capitol, where NECEC president Nick D’Arbeloff provided an overview of the Council’s priorities and talking points, which are headlined by the need for a viable “Cap & Invest” Program for Carbon. This item turns out to be very timely; it is the main hot button topic on the Hill right now (in addition to the budget), as the Waxman/Markey Climate Change Bill was introduced yesterday.

The Council priorities and programs also include a push for a Renewable Energy Standard and a set of Energy Innovation Accelerator Programs from early R&D support to commercial deployment and everything in between, both on the funding and policy/permitting sides. There is also a call out for the Invest part of the Cap & Invest program to be focused on efficiency investments and initiatives. The Council Policy Committee has done a nice job of coalescing a broad set of ideas into a cogent set of initiatives and preparing Council members to brief various members of Congress that we all were to meet with this afternoon.

We then spent an hour on the receiving end of several rapid fire briefs from various New England staffers on their core issues, the budgeting process, the climate change bill, and myriad other topics. Each briefing ended abruptly as the particular staffer hurried off, obviously late for his or her next 10-minute meeting, which seems to be the clock cycle of DC, which I actually quite liked—quick formalities, get to business, highlight action items, and then move on to the next meeting. It’s clear that the budget process, especially appropriations (i.e. earmarks), is the top priority as the deadline is this Friday, so perhaps the mostly mid-20 staffers are more harried than normal, but each was insightful, articulate, and obviously engaged. Key takeaways mirrored my earlier comments, with the added emphasis that it is a long process (start soon for FY 11), and one only needs to walk the halls of the Capital Office Buildings for a few hours to realize that there are many and varied parties vying for the ears of our lawmakers, often with very different agendas.

Next up was Congressman Ed Markey, who was very generous in spending nearly an hour with us, briefing us on his Climate Change Bill and the battle that will ensue over the next several months to make it a reality. The President and Chairwoman Nancy Pelosi have been specific on calling for a Cap & Trade structure, but it seems that there are pockets of Carbon Tax folks who are vocal as well. The Waxman/Markey bill is Cap & Trade and will be flushed out very heavily over the next 4-6 weeks with some fundamental questions and structural issues yet to be worked out. The takeaway is … Next Page »

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