SUN & WIND GET CLOUT
Solar, Wind Power Groups Becoming Prominent Washington Lobbying Forces After Years of Relative Obscurity
Cassandra LaRussa, March 30, 2010 (Open Secrets/Center for Responsive Politics)
"In 1998, the entire alternative energy industry barely even registered as a political player in Washington, spending a mere $2.4 million on lobbying the federal government…[I]n the same year, the oil and gas, electric utilities and mining industries spent a combined $142 million advancing their own legislative interests…That landscape, however, has changed considerably.
"…In 2009, alternative energy organizations shelled out an unprecedented $30 million to protect and promote their interests on Capitol Hill…In comparison, oil and gas spending and mining spending have grown [much more slowly]…The growing involvement of the alternative energy industry in legislative affairs is reflected not just in increased spending…In the late 1990s, only about 20 alternative energy industry organizations used federal lobbyists…By 2009, there were about 200 alternative energy companies and organizations employing lobbyists…"
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"…Until 2008, [The American Wind Energy Association] failed to crack the $1 million mark…and most years, it spent less than $500,000. In 2009…the group spent almost $5 million on lobbying…The involvement stems from the growth in number of alternative energy companies, which was made possible by the growth in popularity of wind power in the national consciousness, said Christine Real de Azua, an AWEA spokeswoman.
Real de Azua states that this, in turn, increased AWEA's ranks by more than 1,000 new business members in 2009 alone…AWEA cites the sheer potential of wind energy and the opportunity for job creation as two key points that their lobbyists emphasize in the fight for favorable legislation.
"…Until 2007, [the Solar Energy Industries Association] had never spent more than half a million dollars on federal lobbying efforts. In 2009, it spent more than $1.6 million…[It] attributes the increase in lobbying presence to a growth in membership that enabled the organization to expand legislative activities…[get an] eight-year extension of the solar investment tax credit…[and] move on to lobbying regarding climate, renewable energy standards, green jobs and appropriations…SEIA has already seen positive gains from their increased expenditures…The group’s lobbyists were successful in promoting several provisions of the stimulus bill…"
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"But while alternative energy interests are just getting acquainted with K Street, the oil and gas industry has been a permanent resident for years…Since 1998, the oil and gas industry has never spent less than $50 million on lobbying in any given year, and in 2009, it reported $168 million in lobbying expenditures…American Petroleum Institute spokesman Bill Bush…[is unconcerned] about the alternative energy industry's efforts…[and unaware of any impact] they're having on the petroleum industry…The institute spent more than $7.3 million in 2009 on federal lobbying efforts after spending between $2.8 million and $4.8 million each year on lobbying between 2002 and 2008.
"As this decade moves forward, climate and energy policy remains a key issue in Congress…Barack Obama labeled such legislation a high priority…Although most of the conversation regarding the drafting of legislation has revolved around the question of greenhouse gases and the proposed “cap-and-trade” policy, the bipartisan bill also makes a point of emphasizing job creation and the use of renewable energy…And with political focus on alternative energy constantly expanding, the lobbying power of the alternative energy industry may soon become as plentiful as Great Plains breezes and desert sunshine."