Help Our Congress Understand Energy and Climate

 
$43,466
$1,534
Raised
Remaining
the United Nations Environment Programme Director
the United Nations Environment Programme Director

 I would like to thank you for your commitment to clean energy and climate solutions. By donating to EESI through Global Giving, you have been making a difference in helping Congress understand energy and climate change.

This year has seen some major progress on efforts to reduce key (and very powerful) climate pollutants other than carbon dioxide. Methane, soot, tropospheric ozone, and HFCs are all highly potent climate pollutants.

Yet they remain in the atmosphere a relatively short time. This means that cutting their emissions can rapidly contribute to climate mitigation—a very important goal!

This year you—and your support—helped EESI push this issue forward.
We held two high-impact, well-attended briefings and offered insights and discussed solutions in private meetings with Congressional offices, federal agency staff, other nonprofits, and key private sector players.

Briefing speakers included scientific experts and representatives from the Senate, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the State Department. At the second briefing, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner spoke, along with Sen. Chris Murphy.

The Ambassador of Micronesia attended the briefing. At the end, he stood up and took the microphone. The Ambassador explained that climate change is an existential issue for his small island country. He said that EESI’s briefing gave him hope.

EESI is working with Congressional offices to foster champions on issues like this. Congressional leaders play a critical role in advancing policy. They introduce legislation, hold hearings and briefings, speak out regularly, urge and support actions by the Administration, and request government studies.

Congressional offices want our help to keep moving this—and other clean energy and climate mitigation measures—forward.
We're there to help them move these measures forward, with your support.

Your commitment does make a difference. Many people gave EESI glowing reviews on GreatNonprofits—the Yelp of nonprofits—making EESI a Top Rated nonprofit in 2013, for the third straight year. Jim Turner is one of them. He wrote:

I was a Congressional staffer for many years and worked for both political parties. Many of those years, I was working on topics within EESI's sphere of influence and regardless of my position, EESI was a trusted source of information for my colleagues on Capitol Hill and me, and a place I could turn to for more information. EESI has always had a very talented and knowledgeable group of people working for them. They are unparalleled in their primary niche of providing timely and objective information on a spectrum of environmental and energy topics to Capitol Hill. I hope they keep up the good work for many years to come.

You can feel confident that your money is being put to good use for energy and climate solutions. EESI will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year—and a long track record of policy accomplishments.

Moreover, Charity Navigator has just awarded its seventh consecutive Four Star rating to EESI. This demonstrates our strong financial management and commitment to transparency and accountability. Just two percent of the nonprofits that Charity Navigator rates have achieved this distinction—so you can feel confident about your support of EESI.

Thank you in advance for your continued partnership with EESI as a Global Giving donor.

Sen. Chris Murphy speaking at EESI
Sen. Chris Murphy speaking at EESI's briefing
Micronesian Ambassador speaking at briefing
Micronesian Ambassador speaking at briefing

Links:

Co-op worker and homeowner inspect a new heat pump
Co-op worker and homeowner inspect a new heat pump

Andrea Jones used to spend $500-$700 on her electric bill every month trying to keep her house livable for herself, her two young children (aged 2 and 8), and her mother. Despite her best efforts, the family room remained cold in winter and hot in summer. In 2012, Andrea joined the Help My House pilot project, which provided energy efficient upgrades to members of her electrical cooperative (co-op) at no upfront cost to the homeowner. With your support, EESI has been providing technical and policy assistance to co-ops like hers in South Carolina -- while working with Congress to advance policies to make programs like this available nationwide.

At Andrea's house, contractors sealed air leaks (including a huge hole behind the fireplace), replaced the electric furnace and AC units with a high efficiency heat pump, repaired and installed new duct work, added 27 bags of insulation, and patched holes under the house.

In the year since her upgrades, Andrea hasn’t paid a monthly electric bill higher than $277. The energy savings make the $69 monthly loan repayment, which is part of her electric bill, easily affordable. In addition to the financial benefits, Andrea raves that "comfort is much better ... seems like the air is better to breathe, too"

Teri and John Norsworthy also shared their experience on the Help My House. The fixed-income retirees jumped at the chance to reduce their monthly electric bill, which could reach as high as $500 per month. Now, their house stays a comfortable temperature, and their electric bill has been drastically reduced.

EESI and its partners, the Central Electric Power Cooperative and The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, found that the average house cut its electricity use by 34 percent. This saved customers an average of $288 per year after loan payments, which is projected to increase to more than $1,100 annually after the loans are fully repaid.

The final results of the pilot further demonstrate that energy efficiency retrofits can be successfully implemented using an on-bill financing model. While availability of loan capital remains an obstacle for a larger program, three of the participating South Carolina co-ops are moving ahead with energy efficiency programs under the "Help My House" banner and model. Two South Carolina co-ops that did not participate in the pilot are now initiating programs.

EESI is working to make on-bill financing more widely available in South Carolina and nationally. Legislation in the Farm Bill that assists electric co-ops in offering or expanding energy efficiency programs passed the Senate twice (last year and this year). The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also working make loan funds to help electric co-ops make such energy efficiency upgrade programs more available.

Rep. Clyburn at EESI
Rep. Clyburn at EESI's on-bill financing briefing
National Rural Electric Coop. Association staff
National Rural Electric Coop. Association staff

Links:

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) opens the discussion.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) opens the discussion.

Thanks to you, we have held 12 Congressional briefings so far this year. For example, we teamed up with the NAACP, the National Congress of American Indians, Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and others to hold a briefing on the disproportionate impact of climate change on communities of color and tribal nations. Our diverse group of speakers addressed the standing-room-only crowd, discussing challenges and opportunities associated with climate change for these two groups across the country.

Speakers explained how climate change hits these communities hard, affecting both their quality and way of life. Both groups are vulnerable to air pollution; communities of color are often in crowded urban areas, while tribal nations can be exposed to air and water pollution from nearby coal plants. Those living in dense urban areas are often unable to escape the impacts of extreme weather events, which are occurring at an increased frequency. Droughts and wildfires can challenge tribal nations’ livelihoods by devastating their crops and lands and affecting their cultural traditions.

While these communities face tremendous challenges, there is also opportunity for sustainable economic development, in part because they have some of the largest solar resources. Speakers stressed the need to take advantage of these resources to spur local job creation and improve environmental quality. Wisconsin’s Forest County Potawatomi Community, a Native American tribe, did just that by installing solar panels. They are also building an anaerobic digester and biogas generation plant, which will convert biodegradable waste, such as food processing byproducts, to usable energy.

Another briefing you helped make possible centered on Americans’ perceptions of climate change. Stanford University Professor Jon Krosnick discussed results from public opinion polls administered annually since 1997. Results from his surveys have been consistent, with the most recent poll showing that 78% of Americans believe that global warming is happening. Despite these opinions held by the vast majority of the country, Americans tend to think many others don’t believe that climate change is real – errantly thinking that just over half of Americans (56%) believe that our actions are affecting the global climate. Looking at the data by state, he found that even in states with the most skeptics, 65% of respondents believe that global warming is real. Dr. Krosnick noted that it is likely that legislators also similarly believe that there is a closer split between climate change believers and skeptics than really exists.

One of the impacts of global climate change is an increase in extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and droughts. All of these can cause power outages, human hardship and economic losses. With this in mind, we held a briefing discussing how energy efficient infrastructure can make the local energy supply reliable and resilient, keeping communities safe from electric and economic losses during severe weather events. Our speakers discussed three technologies (district energy, combined heat and power plants, and microgrids) that complement one another, reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, and increase community resilience. For example, microgrids are small-scale versions of the centralized electricity system that can operate in conjunction with the main power grid or independently. During and after Superstorm Sandy, power generated from a combined heat and power plant operating on a microgrid stayed on in New York’s Co-op in the Bronx. Princeton University’s district energy/combined heat and power facility kept the university operating. This created a safe haven for students and the community and protected more than $200 million in research that would have been lost had the university‘s power gone out.

These Congressional briefings you helped make possible have been an effective way to advance the conversation about these important issues; the dialogue often continues long after the initial forum. Congressional offices continue to ask us to help with bills and to hold additional briefings.  Our dedicated team makes an effort to meet with offices before and after the briefings as well. Many people – including speakers – make new valuable contacts as a result. This is a wonderful part of how you are helping to connect people, information, and ideas to move better policy solutions forward.

You are enabling us to showcase energy and climate issues to help our country’s policymakers make better decisions that will transition our economy to one based on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Reducing dependence on fossil fuels will have a multitude of positive impacts, including slowing climate change, reducing dependence on foreign oil, creating new jobs, and improving health. Thank you for being a valuable part of these efforts-- we could not do this work without you!

National Congress of American Indians speaker
National Congress of American Indians speaker
Speakers & attendees build & sustain relationships
Speakers & attendees build & sustain relationships
EESI hands out fact sheets before each briefing.
EESI hands out fact sheets before each briefing.
Rep. Al Franken (D-MN) discusses energy issues.
Rep. Al Franken (D-MN) discusses energy issues.
An audience member asks a question of our panel.
An audience member asks a question of our panel.

Links:

Panel for Renewable Energy Briefing
Panel for Renewable Energy Briefing

You have already made a difference in helping the new Congress better understand energy and climate issues. At the start of 2013, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) worked diligently to gather contact information for 83 new representatives, 14 new senators, and their staffs. This is an incredibly large class of freshmen lawmakers who need fact-filled information and compelling stories to help make sound decisions.

EESI's staff is meeting with these new policymakers on Capitol Hill to introduce EESI as a non-partisan resource for information on energy and climate issues as they are tasked to make decisions affecting our energy and natural resources with limited federal dollars. So far this year, you have helped EESI organize two briefings on renewable energy and climate change. Of course, more briefings are in the works, thanks to you and others who make this work possible.

EESI and the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) organized a briefing with speakers from the Department of Energy, Deutsche Bank Asset Management, and the Department of State about the important and growing role of renewable energy in America. Renewable energy resources – including water, wind, biomass, geothermal, and solar – are abundant and geographically diverse across the United States. These sources are used to generate electricity, provide thermal energy, fuel industrial processes, and produce transportation fuels. Use of renewable energy has grown rapidly in recent years. The experts explained that costs have decreased substantially.

The speakers stressed to the packed room of more than 150 attendees that renewables are no longer an alternative but part of the mainstream, accounting for almost half of new electric generating capacity last year. In 2012, installation of wind generation capacity outpaced that of natural gas. In 2008, the Department of Energy set a target of reaching 20 percent of U. S. electricity generation from wind power by 2030. The speakers reported that the U.S. is on track to meet the goal.

To provide near-term climate change mitigation and improve public health and food security, EESI and the United Nations Environment Programme organized a briefing to discuss international efforts on another key topic: to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants. While the most common greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, EESI's briefing helped lawmakers understand that there are other, far more potent greenhouse gases that contribute to nearly half of the global warming effect. It also showed that cutting these pollutants now – some of which last in the atmosphere for only a few weeks – can do a lot to slow the rate of climate change in the short term. Speakers included a leading climatologist from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the Director of the United National Environment Programme Regional Office for North America, the Senior Environment and Energy Policy Advisor for Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), and the State Department's Deputy Director of the Office of Environmental Quality and Transboundary Issues.

The standing-room-only briefing began with an overview of the primary types of short-lived climate pollutants – black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons. Major sources of black carbon include inefficient biomass cooking stoves, diesel and twostroke engines, and openairvented coal furnaces. The largest source of methane is oil and gas production. Tropospheric ozone, the primary component of smog, is the product of the atmospheric reaction of methane and a number of other pollutants. Hydrofluorocarbons are a group of chemicals manufactured for use in refrigeration, insulation foam, and aerosols.

Speakers outlined the impacts of short-lived climate pollutants on the climate and public health. They provided an update on the progress of the international Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short Lived Climate Pollutants as it nears its one-year anniversary and explored how the coalition represents a new frontier for international cooperation on climate action. The briefing highlighted the huge benefits of acting to reduce these pollutants; for example, the audience learned that for every dollar spent complying with the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, the United States receives $13 in health and economic gains. Methane mitigation techniques can save up to $3,500 per ton reduced. The majority of measures cost less than $250 per ton, a small price, considering the benefits.

EESI has definitely noticed an uptick in interest in climate and related topics on Capitol Hill. And, of course, President Barack Obama emphasized the need to keep the economy on the right track as it regains its strength and creates new jobs in his State of the Union speech. He also reiterated the critical need to address climate change in both his Inaugural Address as well as the State of the Union. EESI shares these goals and believes that they are inextricably linked. Avenues that show particular promise for bipartisan agreement are reducing short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon and methane, phasing out hydrofluorocarbons and making investments in energy efficiency.

EESI will be highlighting the benefits of energy efficiency in the coming weeks and months, with your continued support. These are just a few of the aspects of energy and climate policy our nation's policymakers need to take on. With your help, EESI will continue to showcase energy and climate issues for policymakers that will enable a transition to a sustainable economy and protect the health and safety for the next generation. You are helping Congress play a more effective role in the global response to climate change. You are helping us bring information on better buildings, transportation, energy technologies, and more to the Congress and the public through our briefings, email newsletters, and personal relationships with Congressional offices and key stakeholders. Thank you so much.

as it nears its one-year anniversary and explored how the coalition represents a new frontier for international cooperation on climate action. The briefing highlighted the huge benefits of acting to reduce these pollutants; for example, the audience learned that for every dollar spent complying with the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, the United States receives $13 in health and economic gains. Methane mitigation techniques can save up to $3,500 per ton reduced. The majority of measures cost less than $250 per ton, a small price, considering the benefits.

EESI has definitely noticed an uptick in interest in climate and related topics on Capitol Hill! And of course, President Barack Obama emphasized the need to keep the economy on the right track as it regains its strength and creates new jobs in his State of the Union speech. He also reiterated the critical need to address climate change. EESI shares these goals and believes that they are inextricably linked. Two of the avenues that show particular promise for bipartisan agreement are phasing out short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon and methane, and investments in energy efficiency.

EESI will be highlighting the benefits of energy efficiency in the coming weeks and months, with your continued support. These are just a few of the aspects of energy and climate policy our nation's policymakers need to take on. With your help, EESI will continue to showcase energy and climate issues for policymakers to transition to a sustainable economy and protect the health and safety for the next generation. You are helping Congress play a more effective role in the global response to climate change. You are helping us bring Congress and the public information on better buildings, transportation, energy technologies, and more through our briefings, email newsletters, and personal relationships with Congressional offices and key stakeholders. Thank you so much.
Q & A portion of briefing for audience discussion
Q & A portion of briefing for audience discussion
Vice Admiral McGinn taking audience questions
Vice Admiral McGinn taking audience questions
Renewable Energy briefing was standing-room-only
Renewable Energy briefing was standing-room-only
Laura Hayes talks about short-lived pollutants
Laura Hayes talks about short-lived pollutants
Steve Chalk discusses the future of renewables
Steve Chalk discusses the future of renewables

Links:

EESI Executive Director Carol Werner at briefing
EESI Executive Director Carol Werner at briefing

With the elections behind us, the importance of educating the new Congress about key energy issues facing our nation is clearer than ever. The House will have 83 new representatives (48 Democrats, 35 Republicans) and the Senate will have 12 new faces (eight Democrats, three Republicans, and one Independent). Thanks in part to your gift for our Global Giving campaign, EESI is in the midst of planning to help the new Congress understand key energy and climate issues.

Once the freshmen arrive in Washington, we'll be in touch, letting them know about EESI's resources – and our history as a non-partisan, nonprofit organization founded by a bipartisan group of members of Congress. We're planning several forums on topics important to the decisions the new Congress will need to make.

We’re organizing a Congressional staff-only briefing about a carbon tax – which is receiving attention as a possible measure to reduce carbon emissions as well as alleviate the budget deficit. We’ll provide an overview of the science behind climate change. We’ll help demystify the federal budget for renewable energy and energy efficiency. If the lame duck Congress does not pass a new farm bill (the last one expired September 30th), we will also be working to educate the Congress on the energy issues in federal farm policy. The farm bill is key for bioenergy and other renewable energy programs initiated in the 2002 and 2008 farm bills. 

 And those are just a few of the topics the Congress will need to understand. Thanks so much for helping to make it possible with your support to our Global Giving project to Help the New Congress Understand Energy and Climate issues. With EESI’s Four Star rating on Charity Navigator and our status as a Top Rated charity on GreatNonprofits, you can have confidence that your gift will be well spent and make a big difference! Again, our deepest thanks.

Bob Simon, Dir. Senate Energy & Nat. Res. Comm.
Bob Simon, Dir. Senate Energy & Nat. Res. Comm.
Packed house at EESI Congressional briefing
Packed house at EESI Congressional briefing
Joanna Lewis, Georgetown prof., at EESI briefing
Joanna Lewis, Georgetown prof., at EESI briefing

Links:

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Project Leader

Carol Werner

Executive Director, EESI
Washington, DC United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Help Our Congress Understand Energy and Climate