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