Energy Future Coalition

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

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The Energy Future Coalition describes itself as "a broad-based, nonpartisan alliance that seeks to bridge the differences among business, labor, and environmental groups and identify energy policy options with broad political support. The coalition aims to bring about changes in U.S. energy policy to address the economic, security and environmental challenges related to the production and use of fossil fuels with a compelling new vision of the economic opportunities that will be created by the transition to a new energy economy."


From the Apollo Alliance web site, June 30, 2003: Futurama: Like the Apollo Alliance, the Energy Future Coalition deftly couched its proposals in the hot-button issues of today's political climate. The idea for the Energy Future Coalition was hatched soon after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, by Timothy E. Wirth, former Democratic senator from Colorado and president of the United Nations Foundation, and some colleagues over a dinner discussion about the vast implications of the tragedy and the related energy issues. They gathered support from a long list of notables; members of their advisory board and steering committee include R. James Woolsey, Jr., former CIA director, Roxanne J. Decyk, senior vice president of Shell Oil, Chansoo Joung, managing director of Goldman Sachs, Howard Bud Ris, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Maggie Fox, deputy executive director of the Sierra Club.

Over the last 18 months, the coalition convened six working groups in the areas of transportation, biofuels and agriculture, energy efficiency, international energy issues, the future of coal, and a "smart" electricity grid (one designed for efficiency and compatible with all forms of distributed generation). In each area, representatives from business, labor, and environmental groups weighed in on how they proposed to achieve dramatic reductions in oil use and carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, and the results have been published in a 129-page report. Though the report does cite global warming as one of its central concerns, the language of the report focuses heavily on the economic opportunity of innovation, national security, and America's leadership role and reputation after invading Iraq.

"The world is watching to see what next step we take and whether America's can-do attitude will chart a new course for everyone. This is a time of opportunity -- a major technological revolution is beginning in energy, with great potential markets. And the reality is that where America goes, others will likely follow," says the report's introduction. "America's example sets the tempo and the direction of action far beyond its borders and far into the future."

This apparent opportunism might be somewhat disturbing for those of us who had objections to the war on Iraq, but it may also be a sound strategy, given the daunting challenge in today's climate of making radically eco-friendly proposals sound not only feasible but appealing to corporate titans and Beltway decision-makers. "We went to great lengths to make the tone of our proposal positive and optimistic," said Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, who pointed out that the energy debate has historically been defined by warring special interests -- that is, by an intractable stalemate between environmentalists and industry. "This conflict, along with overwhelming issues like global warming and energy independence, inspires a feeling of hopelessness and futility, and then gets tossed into the too-hard category, which is why it's so critical [for clean-energy advocates] to maintain a tone of optimism," he said.

One of the key conservative leaders of the coalition, C. Boyden Gray, who was former legal counsel to George Bush Sr. and is an unapologetic skeptic of climate science, exhibited a bit more gravitas when describing his involvement at a coalition press conference: "Our economy and living standards are still hostage to forces beyond our control. Every recession in the last 40 years was preceded by a significant increase in oil prices. And as we all know too well, supply disruptions and price shocks are not the only risks of our oil dependence. I am heartened that leaders from the automobile industry, labor, and environmental groups all agree on the need to promote advanced vehicles and cleaner, alternative fuels."

It was clear that Gray and the other coalition leaders -- Timothy Wirth and John D. Podesta, formerly President Bill Clinton's chief of staff -- agreed that their common interest lay in signaling to Washington not only that all these hot-button issues are interconnected, but also that the environment-industry impasse is not insurmountable. "If the political establishment looks up and says, 'We can move beyond the current inertia in the system,' they'd find a very broad coalition," says Podesta.

To date, though, the Bush administration has summarily dismissed any attempts at bridging the differences among business, labor, and environmental groups. "The administration made a decision in early 2001 that they were not going to waste any time with all this silly dialogue stuff that has for decades led to stalemate; they were just going to talk to their friends in business and just go ahead and get the job done [without any bickering]," says David Hawkins, director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council and the cochair of the EFC's coal working group. The current conversation sparked by these two coalitions -- a conversation taking place on such a grand scale and with so many notable public figures from different sides of the debate -- makes the administration's attitude seem all the more myopic.


Advisory Council

The following individuals serve on the Energy Future Coalition's Advisory Council:

The Coalition's Steering Committee consists of the following individuals:

Funding

Funding Sources

Contact

1225 Connecticut Ave., 4th Floor, NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 463-1947


External links

  • J.R. Pegg, Group Aims to Take Politics Out of Energy Policy, ENS Newswire, June 18, 2003: "The coalition, which consists of more than 150 individuals from a broad array of fields, was formed in the wake of 9/11 and established with support from several private foundations, including the Turner Foundation and the Better World Fund.... The report calls for upgrading of the nation's power grid, explained Energy Future Coalition Executive Director Reid Detchon, because it is 'built on 1950s technology.' This creaking technology costs the U.S. economy some $120 billion a year in power outages and interruptions, Detchon said, but could be transformed into a digitally controlled, stable and secure transmission network for about half that total."
  • Peter Behr, Coalition Sounds Alarm on Impasse Over Energy Policy, Washington Post posted on Natural Resources Defense Council web site, June 19, 2003: "...The foundation, formed by billionaire R. E. Ted Turner, is the primary sponsor of the Energy Future Coalition,... The coalition is led by Wirth; C. Boyden Gray, former counsel to President George H.W. Bush; and John D. Podesta, White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration. The coalition has sponsored working groups of environmentalists, industry and labor representatives from the coal, auto, electricity and agricultural sectors."