Infinite Energy Magazine
The New Energy Movement Introduces Draft Legislation for New Energy Bill to U.S. Congress
Joel Garbon, New Energy Movement President
A spirited grassroots nonprofit organization, The New Energy Movement (NEM), has quietly made remarkable progress in its mission to educate the public and policymakers about the need to support emerging new energy technologies. Publicly launched a little more than two years ago at its inaugural international conference in Portland, Oregon, NEM’s dedicated all-volunteer staff has plowed ahead despite little fanfare and only small trickles of funding. A major leap forward was made recently on the heels of meetings with key legislators, culminating in draft legislation for a new energy bill currently titled the “Energy Innovation Act of 2007.” Congressional briefings are underway in Washington, D.C. in support of the historic legislation. This represents an unprecedented opportunity to generate highly-visible and broadly supported federal funding for new and unconventional energy technologies.
The door was opened when in September 2006 U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) asked Dr. Brian O’Leary, co-founder of The New Energy Movement, if the leadership of NEM could provide him with a draft of proposed new energy legislation, emphasizing that this is a matter of urgent Congressional priority. Congressman Kucinich remarked that dozens of his colleagues were prepared to be co-sponsors of a new energy bill, and had intentions of introducing it in the next Congressional session starting in January 2007. He also shortly afterward announced his candidacy for the 2008 Presidential campaign. There is little doubt that NEM’s proposed legislation will be a centerpiece of his campaign, and will catalyze a tremendous jump in the American public’s awareness, enthusiasm, and support for the vital initiatives it contains.
O’Leary contacted Joel Garbon, President of NEM, about the legislative opportunity and plans were quickly put in place for Garbon to travel to O’Leary’s retreat center in Vilcabamba, Ecuador to begin crafting the draft. Garbon committed to composing the detailed legislation over the following six weeks and headed back home to Portland, Oregon to begin the real work. In mid-December, the completed draft was sent to select members of NEM’s Advisory Board and to members of the inventor community who provided valuable counsel in the drafting process. With an enthusiastic thumbs up from the reviewers, the draft was sent on to Congressman Kucinich on Christmas Eve.
Just prior to taking on the legislative project, Garbon had the remarkable opportunity to engage U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (Washington) on the topic of new energy R&D support. In October, he was invited to appear with Senator Cantwell at a campaign press conference to deliver the message of NEM to a large group of her constituents. Cantwell and her staff had worked hard to produce a comprehensive energy bill that she was promoting during her re-election campaign. Garbon had recently favorably influenced one of Cantwell’s regional staff directors to delve into the new energy arena, and the call to speak at the side of the Senator came just a few weeks later. Garbon’s address to the large group of assembled constituents was brief and focused to convey a few key points:
— The global warming challenge is serious and is considered an urgent priority, as communicated to both the public and privately to NEM leaders by NASA’s top scientists.
— The public’s present embrace of conventional renewable energy technologies (wind, solar, biofuels, etc.) is certainly a positive indicator of receptivity to required changes in the way we generate energy. However, policymakers and the public have fallen dangerously under the illusion that these technologies will solve the global warming, energy security, pollution, and energy-related geopolitical/military conflicts that challenge our nation and all of humanity at this time. Even greatly accelerated, these conventional technologies are woefully inadequate to get us where we need to go and as fast as we need to get there. Only a serious and committed public program of funding support for new and unconventional approaches to energy generation will provide the quantum leap in technology that is urgently required.
— Many of these promising concepts/technologies are springing up on in the workshops and laboratories of inventors and scientists worldwide, including here in the U.S., yet they languish for lack of funding support. We need a massive and publicly accountable jumpstart program for these visionary inventors.
— Incrementalism, vested interest cronyism, and political bickering only serve to waste precious time as our planet’s atmosphere and terrestrial and marine resources continue to degrade. Our children’s futures demand a bold new initiative, grounded in scientific reality, maturity, and wisdom. The New Energy Movement advocates true solutions from this grounding.
As Garbon had experienced in addresses to other civic gatherings, the large group of citizens gathered at the press conference connected with this message, and responded with a rousing ovation. Senator Cantwell and her staff took note of this as well. The public instinctively knows that NEM’s message is authentic. And they know that the weak, compromised partial measures of business-as-usual in Washington will doom our country, and perhaps our planet, if allowed to proceed in the vacuum of true and serious leadership on these urgent issues. Many of the Senator’s constituents came up to NEM’s president immediately after the press conference and asked how they can help.
That occasion was an auspicious one for NEM’s leadership and provided a conduit into a key new energy champion in the Senate. While Cantwell’s Senate Bill 2829 is comprehensive, the provisions for new energy R&D are not well fleshed out. Her bill calls for the establishment of an Office of Advanced Energy Research, Technology Development, and Deployment in the Department of Energy. It also would have the Director of the new Office appointed by the Secretary of Energy. In the view of NEM’s leadership and its advisors, including many from the inventor community, those provisions demonstrate a general lack of knowledge of the history of the DOE when it comes to open-mindedness and support of breakthrough new energy technology. Far from being a strong advocate of new energy science and technology, many claim that the DOE has been obstructionist. Cold fusion researchers would have a case here.
NEM’s draft legislation of the “Energy Innovation Act of 2007” carefully considers the time urgency of our global environmental, resource depletion, socioeconomic, and geopolitical challenges and the high stakes at play with breakthrough energy technology, and makes provisions to address the real-world temptation by vested interests to erect roadblocks to any serious initiatives. It assumes the position that placement of a new Office of Energy Innovation (or Cantwell’s analogue) in the DOE would be a naïve blunder, and instead opts for placement of the Office as a Joint Congressional agency. And to strengthen the transparency and public accountability of such an Office, NEM’s legislation calls for a Citizen Oversight Council to monitor the Office’s activities.
The summary of NEM’s “Energy Innovation Act of 2007” is as follows:
— Establishes and funds a new Joint Congressional Office of Energy Innovation
— Assigns to the Office of Energy Innovation the following mission:
— Establishes an independent and publicly accountable Citizen Oversight Council to monitor the Office of Energy Innovation and ensure compliance with its stated mission.
— Identify and rapidly advance new and unconventional approaches to energy generation in recognition of their critical importance to the United States’ national and energy security and their potential as valuable solutions to urgent global environmental and resource depletion issues.
— Accelerate small business early-stage research and development of new and unconventional approaches to energy generation through awards of modified Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grants and loan guarantees designed to fund up to five years of R&D.
— Perform initial and biannual technical assessments of candidate technologies through collaboration with contract consultants and various qualified university, private, and national laboratories.
— Track progress of candidate technologies through annual progress reports.
— Engage the American public’s enthusiasm and support for new energy options through high-profile publication of award recipients, general descriptions of the technologies, and nonproprietary summaries of technical assessments and annual progress reports.
The legislation is quite specific as to what is and is not included as a “new and unconventional approach to energy generation.” The full draft will be made publicly available on NEM’s website (www.NewEnergyMovement.org) by the end of January, after its Congressional champions have been formally briefed.
NEM and its advisors will be conducting an ongoing series of briefings to key members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and their respective legislative staffs. These briefings began in December 2006 and will get into full swing in late January and into February 2007. They represent a huge commitment of time and resources for the small volunteer staff of NEM. The projected cost for the 2007 briefings is $100,000. NEM is counting on the broad financial support of citizens who are aligned with its purpose to help carry out this important phase of the larger and vital mission to safeguard the well-being of our country, the human family, and our planet.
I ask that NEM’s friends and supporters give serious and immediate consideration to the request for financial aid to achieve the near-term goal of favorably influencing new energy legislation. We also welcome any outreach efforts you might make to your network of allied individuals and organizations on NEM’s behalf. I strongly believe that we have within our grasp the precious opportunity of a tipping-point regarding our citizens’ and government’s embrace of serious support for advanced new energy technology. Thank you for playing a key role in leveraging this opportunity.
The New Energy Movement is a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. Donations are tax-deductible under section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code. Our IRS Employer Identification Number is 54-2125239. Donations can be made from the homepage of our website www.NewEnergyMovement.org or by sending a check to: The New Energy Movement, c/o Alden Bryant—Treasurer, 1442A Walnut Street #57, Berkeley, CA 94709.
Please call Joel Garbon at 503-706-6193 if you need any further clarification on NEM’s legislative proposal, briefings program, or resource requirement.