NewEnergyNews: ON BEHALF OF WIND ENERGY: BREE RAUM

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    Monday, February 25, 2008

    ON BEHALF OF WIND ENERGY: BREE RAUM

    Near the close of a recent wind energy industry workshop, the moderator told the the talk-weary audience the next presentation would be about grassroots activism and congressional politics. As an attractive 20-something woman stepped to the podium, eyes glazed over – until her first slide appeared. “Who knows who this is?” she asked. It was a picture of a pop singer.

    “Beyonce!” was heard around the room. And the wind energy industry’s youthful professionals perked up.

    “And who knows who this is?” the serious young woman at the podium asked as her second slide – a wizened, bespeckled man in a tie – appeared.

    The room remained silent a few moments before somebody finally said, “Reid. Harry Reid.”

    Bree Raum smiled. “Very good,” she told her audience. And the audience WAS now hers. “64% of Americans can identify Beyonce. 15% recognize Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader.”


    click to enlarge

    That’s the challenge in Raum’s world. She proceeded to outline the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)’s efforts to get vital incentives through the Senate and how her audience could help. By the time she was finished, she had a lot of people more interested in congressional machinations than they had ever been before.

    Who is that woman?

    “I get a lot of response, I get a lot of questions,” Bree Raum recently told NewEnergyNews about her workshop presentation. Even a short conversation with her makes it eminently clear she is very interested in politics but passionate about the politics of wind energy. “I end up explaining that there are a lot of reasons why this is tough and it has nothing to do with the fact that your member of congress does not like wind.”

    Raum is completely engaged in the fight to get wind energy’s production tax credit (PTC) extended. If Congress does not pass an extension, the tax credit will expire at the end of 2008. With the PTC will probably go significant investment in America’s fastest growing source of electricity generation. Investors will hold their cards, awaiting a more favorable political climate. Projects will be put on hold. Jobs will be lost. Development of America’s 21st Century energy infrastructure will be slowed and its capacity to generate clean electricity will be further delayed. The country’s readiness to compete in a world confronting climate change will be further degraded. Raum is working hard to prevent all this.

    Raum was hired by AWEA to create an advocacy campaign. “They brought me on to kind of create my own grass roots program. That’s one of the things that I love about the job, not only that I was getting into a great industry but also that I could create something that was mine… I could do whatever I wanted with it.”


    Green=both Senators voted for New Energy, Gray=one senator, Red=neither senator. Raum's challenge is simple: Turn more of these states green. (click to enlarge)

    Bree made her bones, fresh out of college, with the National Propane Gas Association. “I learned a lot about the energy industry and I learned a lot about the gas industry,” she said of her time there. But the staid propane industry lost its challenge. Not so, the wind energy industry: “The industry’s growing so fast its hard to keep up with contacts and getting people involved. When I got here I think we had 600 members and now we have 1200 so we’ve doubled in just a matter of 2 years.”

    She has created a program designed “…to engage the industry in the political arena because we rely so heavily on Congress’s decisions…that is going to have a profound effect on our industry so I try to engage them in, one, at least being aware of what’s going on but, two, to get them actively involved…”

    Anybody on the AWEA email list is familiar with the Action Alerts. “If I have your email, you’re going to get an Action Alert…That’s Level One.”


    Ready for a political primer?

    click to enlarge

    Call this next section “Bree Raum’s guide to having political impact.”

    The next level of advocacy is the actual 4-part program. She calls it “opt-in” because she is interested in drawing in people who will respond and be proactive, people who “…when I call them and ask them to set up a district meeting or host a congressional tour, they’re going to do it.”

    Part 1 of the program, congressional tours, encourages wind energy producers and manufacturers to get Senators and Representatives out on the wind farms and into the plants. Raum and AWEA will even provide the invitations. She recommends the invitations be open-ended because politicians’ schedules are so crowded and a visit is so potentially awareness-raising. “A member of congress visiting your facility is by far the best thing that you can do,” Raum says. “It shows there are jobs in their district, it shows you’re politically engaged, it shows that they have noticed you and they might actually do something for you.”

    Raum mentioned in passing that politicians especially love to be photographed beside a wind turbine on Earth Day. Earth Day is April 22 this year.

    Part 2 of the program is to remind wind energy business owners to always invite Senators, Representatives and District staff to all project dedications. Such occasions are great photo-ops for the political players and great opportunities for wind energy builders to demonstrate they are engaged politically. “If you’re going to have a party,” Raum says, “you want to make sure you invite everybody.”

    Part 3 is what Raum calls her “8 minute activist program.” AWEA has created a set of cards for members. Some are scripted prompts for what to say to elected officials on policy issues, either in person, in phone contacts, in letters or in email contacts. Others are actual postcards ready for mailing. Each has a specific targeted audience. None requires more than 8 minutes of the targeted person or messenger. Raum never forgets that 4 times as many Americans are interested in listening to Beyonce than in listening to the Senate Majority Leader.


    To assist wind industry advocates face the intimidating experience of talking to elected representatives, Raum has developed a variety of prompt cards. (click to enlarge)

    Part 4 is district meetings: “All members of Congress have district offices and it’s so important to meet those staff members out there,” Raum explains. “When you do that, when you go to a district and say, ‘I want a long term PTC extension,’ it echoes what AWEA is doing in Washington. They’re not just hearing it from the hired Washington lobbyist, they’re hearing it from the Washington lobbyist and the state and that is just fundamentally necessary.”

    WindPAC

    The other program Raum manages at AWEA is the Association’s Political Action Committee (PAC). The PAC receives financial donations to the cause of wind energy and channels the funds to support the campaigns to elected officials who support wind energy. “A way to make sure your friends are reelected,” Raum calls it.

    Fund raising is probably the toughest part of politics. How is Raum doing with it? “When I came on board 2 years ago, the best year we had was $27,000…This year we almost reached $80,000. And we hope to grow even more.”


    Looking Ahead

    Raum briefly described the PTCs in the energy bill she expects the House of Representatives to pass soon after bringing it to the floor February 27. It is likely to be a 3-year extension, allowing a full value credit in 2009 and credits for up to 35% of the project value for 2010-11. As with the 2007 energy bill, the cost of the PTCs and other New Energy incentives will be offset by shifting incentives and subsidies away from the fossil fuels industries. As with the 2007 energy bill, this is not likely to fly in the upper house. “The problem is obviously the Senate,” Raum said.

    Insiders have confided to NewEnergyNews that the prospect of getting New Energy incentives through the Senate this year is not promising. Bree Raum is undaunted. She alluded to possible ways to fund the incentives that could win Senatorial opponents’ favor and excitedly pointed out there are prospects for even better things from the next Congress under a new administration. Her exuberance and engagement are utterly contagious.


    WHO
    Bree Raum, Manger of Grassroots Advocacy and WindPAC, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)

    WHAT
    Raum talked about AWEA’s efforts to get its members and supporters involved in the fight to pass vital tax credits necessary to incentivize the wind enrgy industry’s continued expansion.

    Want to get Raum's Action Alerts? Contact AWEA and get on their email list. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - Raum spoke to a wind energy siting workshop February 15 and had a private chat with NewEnergyNews February 21.
    - The House of Representatives is expected to again pass an energy bill with excellent incentives for New Energy February 27 or shortly thereafter. The fight will be, as it was last year and earlier this year, when the bill comes before the Senate.

    WHERE
    - Raum and AWEA are based in Washington, D.C.
    - The workshop at which Raum spoke was in Austin, TX.

    WHY
    - Raum is completely engaged in getting the word out about the ongoing fight for New Energy incentives.
    - As Manager of Grass Roots Advocacy, Raum has developed a far-reaching “Action Alert” email system and a 4-part program to get wind energy professionals and supporters more involved.
    - As Manager of WindPAC, she is vigorously engaged in the hardcore activism of political fund raising.

    QUOTES
    - Raum: “If I have your email, you’re going to get an Action Alert…”
    - Raum: “The Grassroots Program is really designed to engage the industry in the political arena because we rely so heavily on Congress’s decisions…that is going to have a profound effect on our industry so I try to engage them in, one, at least being aware of what’s going on but, two, to get them actively involved…”

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