Washington Advocacy Trip: Part 3

Sometimes you have to meet where you have to meet. Representative Beyer of Virginia is one of the new kids on the block. Because of that, his office space is limited. So, when we met with his staff on Wednesday, our meeting room doubled as a storage locker.

Wednesday morning started off with a visit to the White House Conference Center complex, including going thru a secret service checkpoint. The White House had extra security because the Japanese Prime Minister was in town. We met with folks from the Council on Environmental Quality whose focus is on climate, public health and resilience. I found it interesting that the word resilience was used often by members of the administration, both from CEQ and Agriculture.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan also was big on their agenda. Basically, they’re looking to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 30% below 2005 levels over the next fifteen years. States are given the choice of how they do it – solar, wind, geothermal, energy efficiency, etc – or a combination. We believe that the plan will be a big job generator as states take action to implement the plan.

A little later in the day, we met with Undersecretary of Agriculture, Robert Bonnie. He reiterated to us that the President is personally very engaged on climate change and energy solutions. He said that the Forest Services sometimes spends as much as 50% of it’s budget on fire fighting – a direct result of a warming climate. From the agriculture perspective, Undersecretary Bonnie is focused on:

  • Resilience
  • Rural development banks
  • Market-based approaches to climate problems
  • Working in social impact investing on agriculture and natural resources
  • Energy efficiency loan program
  • Quantifying greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices across the country
  • Providing solutions for emissions offsets.
A plaque on Representative Morgan Griffith's wall

A plaque on Representative Morgan Griffith’s wall

We rounded out our advocacy trip by heading back to the Hill and visiting with five House of Representatives offices. We met with staff from both sides of the aisle again, and were greeted with interest and good questions.

General Seip was our expert on military research and use of renewable energy. I enjoyed working with him, because he’s been at the front lines of our energy supply. When he was overseeing the air war in Iraq, his charges had to protect the convoys supplying oil to the ground troops. He said lots of soldiers were lost delivering and protecting the oil. He strongly advocated for continued research into advanced biofuels and other renewable energy technologies by the military as a matter of national security and to avoid putting more soldiers in harms way.

We wrapped up our visit with a tour of the Capitol and the viewing galleries of both the House and Senate.

Overall, it was outstanding trip. I learned much about advocating for causes, engaging with lawmakers and the overall governmental process in Washington. Given the opportunity, I would gladly head back.

Washington Advocacy Trip: Part 2

You learn a lot about the political process by walking the halls of Congress. Not much goes on in the chambers, but much goes on in the offices and halls of the Senate & House office buildings.

We started off our Tuesday morning meeting with Peter Rogoff, Undersecretary of Transportation. Transportation has been a hot topic, as the transportation trust fund has been severely underfunded for years. Much of this has to do with the fact that the gas tax has not been raised since 1993. Over that time, CAFE standards have risen while average miles driven has dropped. The result is the situation we have right now.

Our group had concerns about overall funding, but also that proposed transportation bills lack progressive solutions to transportation, such as public transit, ride-sharing and technology. One such piece of technology we used as an example was Ridescout. The app provides multiple options for getting from point A to point B, including walking (and how many calories you would burn), using Uber and Lyft, public transportation and cars. The tech term is “Mobility-as-a-Service.” My colleague, Mark Bauhaus from Silicon Valley was a strong proponent these technology solutions.

We heard several options for funding as we headed over to the Senate offices for more meetings. We met with both sides of the aisle, and they all had a similar message – we don’t know where the money is going to come from. Some advocate raising the gas tax and attaching an automatic inflation increase while some want to use re-patriated funds from corporations to cover costs. We heard from Ethan Garber that truckers are actually in favor of raising the gas tax. Some want to change the word tax to “user fee.” We were concerned that using the re-patriated funds is only a short-term solution.

Just about everybody agreed that nothing was going to happen during this Congress and that another stop-gap funding solution is in the works. The unfortunate aspect is that they have used a technique called smoothing federal pensions to pay for the gap in funding. Basically, they have raided workers pensions – that’s not right!

I have to say that I was very impressed with the ten Senate offices that we met with, both Republican and Democrat. Most meetings were with staffers, but Senator Boozman, a Republican from Arkansas, agreed to meet with us. Like the staffers we met, the Senator listened, asked good questions and was genuinely interested in what we had to say.

Our team meeting with Arkansas Senator Boozman

Our team meeting with Arkansas Senator Boozman

We talked a lot about the economic side of things. Being green is green! For example, we discussed the number of jobs that clean energy has brought to the US. In fact, California now has more clean energy jobs than Hollywood jobs!

As businesspeople, we advocated for policies and legislation that enables clean energy business owners to write long-term business plans. Tax incentives for renewable energy (solar, wind & efficiencies) are an on-again/off-again proposition, while subsidies for fossil fuels are permanent. We simply would like to see a level playing field for all types of energy, not just the deep-pockets of oil, gas and coal. So, with equivalent incentives, clean energy business owners can lay out long-term business and employment plans.

And our last topic of the day, we also discussed the option of CEITs (Clean Energy Investment Trusts) as a way to fund clean energy projects. REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) are a proven way to fund housing/office/retail development and provide cash flow to investors. An equivalent investment vehicle would foster additional clean energy development plus it would give a market signal that government was behind it.

Part 3 will cover our Wednesday meetings and other issues we discussed with the administration and legislators.

Washington Advocacy Trip: Part 1

I arrived in Washington DC last week to join 20 other business leaders as part of E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) advocacy week. This was a very dynamic and accomplished group and I was honored to be a part it.

They broke us up into teams and again, I was amazed at the quality of individuals they had assembled. My team included:

  • Marc Boom, the E2 Director of Advocacy
  • Mark Bauhaus, a technology veteran from silicon valley, and partner at JustBusiness
  • Ethan Garber, CEO of IdleAir
  • Norm Seip, USAF Lieutenant General (Ret), national security consultant
Our team in the Russell Senate Office Building

Our team in the Russell Senate Office Building

We had multiple objectives for our meetings:

  • Demonstrate to legislators and the administration the importance of marrying economic and environmental interests.
  • Establish relationships with legislators on both sides of the aisle.
  • Discuss our policy agenda which include
    • The importance of incentives and renewable energy tax credits
    • Clean energy financing opportunities
    • Climate Change legislation and rules
    • The EPA Clean Power Plan
    • A Transportation Bill that is sustainable both financially and environmentally
    • Continued support for the military’s research into renewable energy

A couple of very busy days awaited of us after our briefing on Monday night. Part 2 will go over our first day of advocacy…

Mr. Krull Goes to Washington

I am looking forward to heading to Washington, DC on April 27th as part of a coalition of environmental-based entrepreneurs meeting with lawmakers and administration officials. The trip is being organized by E2, Environmental Entrepreneurs, a non-partisan community of business leaders who promote sound environmental policy that builds economic prosperity.

Krull & Company has been a member of E2 since early 2014 and has taken an active role in encouraging lawmakers to adopt environmentally responsible policies and laws.

On this trip, we will be focusing on three issues:

  • Supporting clean energy policies and programs in upcoming energy bills and tax reform
  • Supporting and defending the implementation of policies to reduce greenhouse gases in an economically beneficial way (Clean Power Plan)
  • Supporting a new transportation bill that prioritizes innovation, lowers environmental impacts and increases economic efficiency.

What does this mean for you?

All of these issues affect our clients in some way – from renewable energy tax credits to more efficient forms of transportation. They also are relevant to our strategies of investing in sustainable companies and divesting from fossil fuels.

I will keep you up to date on the results.

Pete Krull