A recent report from research firm New Energy Finance, spending on Washington lobbyists by the clean energy industry has accelerated rapidly in recent years, but still lags behind that the fossil fuel industry.  Through the first six months of 2009, the sector spent an unprecedented $12.1 million on lobbying,  According the Center for Responsive Politics, During the same period, oil and natural gas spent $82.2 million on lobbying, with ExxonMobil alone contributing $14.9 million. That’s $2.8 million more that the entire clean energy sector.

With the energy debate raging on Capitol Hill and the Obama Administration seeking to disburse over $60 billion in stimulus funds to clean energy, the sector is starting to spend significant sums on lobbying to make sure its voice is not drowned out. According to a review of thousands of Senate Office of Public Records disclosures by New Energy Finance, last year, clean energy industry expenditures on US lobbyists totaled no less that $21.8 million, a five-fold increase from just two years earlier.  This year, despite the major economic downturn, the industry is on pace to spend a record amount.

The total number of private firms seeking to influence policy has grown from 68 in 2006-07 to 110 in 2009.  There are also no fewer than 29 trade/advocacy groups lobbying for the sector.  The amount the various clean energy technologies, biofuel firms have spent the most since the start of 2008, accounting for one in three dollars spent. The wind sector accounts for just over one fifth of all spending.  Even the marine power sector is starting to be hears with a surprising $716,000 spent.

Event smaller, pre-earnings firms are spending in an attempt to influence policy.  Venture capital-financed start-ups developing next-generation biofuels, solar modules of other technologies such as Saffire Energy, Ice Energy, Gridpoint, Algenol Biofuels, A123 Systems, Amyris Biotechnologies, Qteros, SolarCity, Tessera, Zeachem, Xunlight and a number of other firms are spending on lobbyists.

With a clean energy friendly president in the White House and a Democratic Congress, the sector’s advocates are clearly hoping to get sympatric hearings at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.  Still, the sectors lobbying efforts are dwarfed nearly seven to one by those of the oil & gas, coal, and utility industries.

“The bottom line is, this is a huge, huge deal,” said Jeffrey Holmstead a lobbyist with Bracewell & Giuliani, a top climate lobbying firm, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “In terms of its importance to the U.S. economy and the energy sector, (climate change) is really a much bigger deal than anything that has come before Congress. The stakes are very, very high.”

Environmental groups have also stepped up their lobbying efforts and have about 180 lobbyists on Capitol Hill, as opposed to less than 50 five years ago.   However, despite to tremendous growth, according to Marianne Lavelle, a staff writer for the Center for Public Integrity, business and energy lobbyists still outnumber environmental lobbyists and clean energy lobbyists by a margin of 8 to 1.

Some experts trace the boom in climate change lobbying to the the passage of an energy bill in late 2007 when members of Congress battling it out over whether to require utilities to use renewable energy sources. The provision was eventually dropped from the bill, but it signaled a sea change in the way the green debate was going.

Additional Resource:

Center for Responsive Politics Clean Energy Production & Services Lobbying Chart

© 2009, Tracey de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Tracey de Morsella (323 Articles)

Tracey de Morsella started her career working as an editor for US Technology Magazine. She used that experience to launch Delaware Valley Network, a publication for professionals in the Greater Philadelphia area. Years later, she used the contacts and resources she acquired to work in executive search specializing in technical and diversity recruitment. She has conducted recruitment training seminars for Wachovia Bank, the Department of Interior and the US Postal Service. During this time, she also created a diversity portal called The Multicultural Advantage and published the Diversity Recruitment Advertising Toolkit, a directory of recruiting resources for human resources professionals. Her career and recruitment articles have appeared in numerous publications and web portals including Woman Engineer Magazine, Monster.com, About.com Job Search Channel, Workplace Diversity Magazine, Society for Human Resource Management web site, NSBE Engineering Magazine, HR.com, and Human Resource Consultants Association Newsletter. Her work with technology professionals drew her to pursuing training and work in web development, which led to a stint at Merrill Lynch as an Intranet Manager. In March, she decided to combine her technical and career management expertise with her passion for the environment, and with her husband, launched The Green Economy Post, a blog providing green career information and covering the impact of the environment, sustainable building, cleantech and renewable energy on the US economy. Her sustainability articles have appeared on Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation, Chem.Info,FastCompany and CleanTechies.