You might not have heard, because almost nobody reported it, but new clean-energy projects attracted more global funding in 2008 than fossil-fuel projects did. For the first time ever, investors put more money in solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower than in fuels that must be burned, according to a U.N. report. And when venture-capital funding tanked in 2009 because of the recession, cleantech weathered the downturn better than any other sector. People with money to invest are choosing clean energy over dirty.
But lawmakers who shape energy legislation are not, quite possibly because they don’t don’t have a good understanding of the energy landscape. Because they spend their weekends with oil lobbyists. In Miami Beach:
Twelve Democratic Senators spent last weekend in Miami Beach raising money from top lobbyists for oil, drug, and other corporate interests that they often decry, according to a guest list for the event obtained by POLITICO.
The guest list for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s “winter retreat” at the Ritz Carlton South Beach Resort doesn’t include the price tag for attendance, but the maximum contribution to the committee, typical for such events, is $30,000. There, to participate in “informal conversations” and other meetings Saturday, were senators including DSCC Chairman Robert Menendez; Michigan’s Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow; Bob Casey of Pennsylvania; Claire McCaskill of Missouri; freshmen Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Begich of Alaska; and even left-leaning Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Ben Smith’s piece in Politico notes the hypocrisy of senators pretending not to be in the pocket of corporate interests when in fact they are. But even if lawmakers want to make honest choices, “winter retreats” like this are giving them a skewed understanding of what’s really happening in the energy industry, for one. If they knew what investors know, they might rethink the tremendous advantage they give to fossil fuels via subsidies and tax breaks: