cleantechSince the turn of the 21st century the amount of  lobbyist spending in the environmental and clean energy technology sector has grown by more than 200%.  Spurred by investment from private firms and the public outcry of an exorbitant amount of college campuses across the country, clean energy technology and climate legislation are taking the main-stage on capitol hill. The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 was passed last year in the House of Representatives and the Kerry-Graham-Leiberman bill is due out later in 2010.

By: Nicholas Varilone, Green Economy Post.

There is no debate, as Capitol Hill struggles to pass monumental climate legislation in the United States the need for a strong environmental lobby is growing.  For this lobby to really take hold congress needs to appoint strong, steadfast environmental advocates.   Advocates like Senator Barbara Boxer, who in 2006 replaced James Inofe as the Senate chair for the Environmental and Public Works Committee.  Inofe regarded global warming as “a hoax” and tried to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.  Obviously not the sort of person that should be the chair of a Senate appointed environmental committee.

Righting the Ship

While revolutionary climate bills try to meander their way through Congress, it is important to understand the necessity for a strong environmental lobby.  Lobbyists are at the forefront of any political decision.   Without a proactive and headstrong lobbyist group in the Cleantech and environmental sector, legislation designed to help these industries will be swallowed by the bureaucrats.

Progress is being made.  According to the Senate Office of Public Records, environmental firms spent $21,908,460 on lobbying in 2009.  The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, World Wildlife Fund, and US Climate Action Partnership were the largest contributors each contributing more than $1 million.   This represents a 243% increase in lobbyist spending since the turn of the century.

Beginning in 2008 and running through the second quarter of 2009, we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of organizations lobbying the government for climate action.  In total 1,150 companies were lobbying as the House passed climate legislation on June 26, 2009.

Interests in this lobby group range anywhere from agricultural interests in new bio-fuels to modernization of the electric grid.  Another astounding contribution to this lobby comes from the education sector.  It is exciting to see that so many young people are concerned with the future of our environment; over 30 higher education institutions across the country have made significant contributions to the environmental lobby.

Where Are We Headed?

The monumental increase in lobbyist spending in the environmental sector as well as the public outcry for change from college campuses across the nation has sparked marked change in government legislation. On June 26, 2009 the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454).  This landmark piece of legislation is a gigantic leap forward for environmental lobbyists and advocates alike.   It is the first bill of its kind to address greenhouse gas emissions as related to climate change.  If passed by the senate the bill would be designed to establish a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions reducing emissions by 17% by 2020.

Another climate bill is in the works and will be unveiled by the end of this year.  Senator’s John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsay Graham(R-S.C.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) are the leading promoters of this bill.  Following is a summary of what the bill hopes to accomplish.

  • Promote a streamlined system for capping greenhouse gas emissions from the utilities and transport sector aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% during the next decade and 80% by 2050.
  • Allow business concessions in energy-intensive industries a four year window to modify their business operations to allow for the carbon cap.  This will include $10 billion to the coal industry for “clean coal technology” that will capture emissions from coal-fired power plants.
  • Redistribute 2/3 of pollution allowances back to the consumer.
  • The bill will contain a nuclear title providing loan guarantees and liability protections for the construction of up to twelve plants.


The dramatic increase in lobbyist spending for the Cleantech and Environmental sectors can be strongly correlated with the public’s increasing demand to live in a cleaner, safer environment.  The increase in lobbyist spending to me makes me believe that thousands of Americans that support this cause will finally be heard in Congress.  Passage of either of the aforementioned climate bills will be a gigantic leap forward for a clean sustainable future for America. This is a new arena for government legislation and may be stalled or beaten back entirely in congress.  However I believe that people are finally beginning to open their eyes and understand what is surely becoming one of the greatest challenges of our time.  The next few years will be pivotal in the direction our elected officials will take our country in respect to our environmental and energy future.  Thank you Lobbyists!  Let your voices continue to be heard.

© 2010, Nicholas Varilone. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Nicholas Varilone (6 Articles)

I am a graduate of Michigan State University with a Bachelor's of Arts in Economics. I am currently pursuing a specialization in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics and will be applying to the graduate program in Environmental Economics at Michigan State University. I am an avid outdoorsman and conservationist. I am mostly interested in studying the impact we are having on global climate change. I have extensive knowledge in cost benefit analysis of government environmental programs. I am a member of MSU's student sustainability organization as well as the MSU chapter of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. Email: On Facebook.