Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

A Natural Alliance

Partisanship aside, Nora Maccoby and Rachel Pearson of Nature's Partners have teamed-up to change the way you view energy


A Technicolor Sunday morning cartoon starts with an updated School House Rock anthem and a teenager plugging an iPod into their bedroom wall. We zoom through the electric outlet in a high-voltage voyage through the wiring in the wall, over a drop-wire outside and to a nearby electric pole. From there we emanate over the nation's power lines and, hopefully, into the collective conscious of U.S. consumers.

The cartoon is part of an education series that Nature Partner's Nora Maccoby and Rachel Pearson are producing along with the group's fellow co-founders, Michael Wilson of Florida Power and Light, and David Brown of Exelon Corporation. The goal is to educate Americans on a modern grass-roots level about nuclear, wind, wave, coal, gas, oil, biomass, and photo voltaic solar energy.

The drive to improve energy literacy among Americans comes fortuitously at a time when the White House is pushing the President's Advanced Energy Initiative. The plan aims to replace more than 75% of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025 and provides for a 22% increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy.

With nearly $10 billion having already been spent by the U.S. since 2001 for cleaner, cheaper and more reliable alternative energy sources, Nature's Partners has sprung up at the right time. If it were up to Maccoby and Pearson, in the energyindependent future, choosing whether your home's energy comes from nuclear or wind or oil would be as simple as getting cable (without having to wait for the installer all day, one would hope.)

"We're striving to create a level playing field so that everybody between the ages of seven and 70 can have a basic understanding of what happens when you plug something into a socket. Where does it go? What is the grid system? What is electricity? How is power generated?" says the left-leaning Nora Maccoby. At the end of the year, Maccoby found herself at Izette Maccoby Folger's birthday party at the Sulgrave club, genially conversing with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Afterwards, the account was written-up in the New York Post: "After a half-hour of Maccoby lecturing Rummy that energy independence through renewable clean sources should be the heart of a national security strategy, a grinning Rumsfeld bleated to those nearby, ‘I can't believe this-this girl's kicking my ass, and she's right.' Then to Maccoby, ‘Call the Secretary of Energy. You can use my name. By the way, how old are you?' Maccoby: ‘Why?' Rumsfeld: ‘I have a son, actually.'" Soon after, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent a snowflake around the Pentagon calling for the creation of a "centralized point in the Department" to work on energy conservation. It seems Maccoby's and the Defense Secretary's impromptu debate came at the right time.

"Let's deal with energy literacy, let's deal with teaching people efficiency, let's deal with commonsense issues: the infrastructure of our democracy," says Maccoby. "We're at a turning point environmentally and economically in terms of losing out to other countries such as China [which she just toured with a delegation of energy experts] that are going forward with new economic infrastructures based on new technologies and renewable energies that we helped to innovate," she says.

China, for its part, has pledged US$181 billion over the next five years for renewable energy. "It's cheaper to find a new course than to stick with a bad one," Maccoby says. For Nature's Partners Republican attaché Pearson, the fact that two activists on opposite sides of the political spectrum united over energy literacy, speaks volumes for the issue's ability to bridge the partisan divide. Pearson recalls: "Nora and I met during the summer before the last presidential election; it was heated then, everybody was angry and declaring sides - particularly in this town. I'm a Republican, Nora's a Democrat - and we knew that instantly. But there was a point for us when we knew we weren't interested in getting into the partisan debate. So, I invited her to the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York."

Maccoby interjects with a hint of irony: "My ex-roommate was leading the demonstration against the Republican Party, and I was in The Plaza - it was a turning point." "Energy and the world environment are the only areas left in this country where the right and the left can have a conversation. Every other area is so fractured," say Pearson, "I hope we are not too polarized for this." According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, we're not. Their findings show major ities of both parties favor renewables - and more Republicans than Democrats (82% vs 77%) support ‘more research' on renewables.


A Pew Research Center report dated February 28, 2006 states: "With high fuel prices and instability in the Middle East, Americans are increasingly concerned about the nation's energy situation. In January, 58% rated ‘dealing with the nation's energy problem' a top priority, up from just 47% a year ago." The topic even str ikes a chord with evangelicals on the grounds of ‘stewardship of the earth,' a topic Pearson feels hits home with the President, commenting, "The issue resonates on several levels with the President," she says. Still, party differences exist. The same Pew Research report states 44% of Americans support the idea of promoting nuclear power to address the country's energy needs, while 49% are opposed. While roughly four-in-ten Democrats favor promoting nuclear power, an equal number of Republicans oppose the idea. Similarly, while 57% of Democrats oppose allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a third supports the proposal - hardly a unified party position.

The President and Senator s Barack Obama, John MacCain and Joe Liebermann have come out for decreasing our dependence on foreign oil for both environmental and national security reasons, but bi-partisanship is not as simple as whistling "Conjunctionjunction, what's your function?" "Saying America is addicted to oil without following a real plan for energy independence is like admitting alcoholism and then skipping out on the 12-step program," commented Sen. Obama. So, as our leaders work to enact legislation to incentivize green technologies, Nature's Partners will be working to educate us on how to intergrate it into our everyday lives, assuring us that it is as easy as ABC.

• Updated "School House Rock" cartoons
• The eco-equivalent of "Extreme Home Makeover" for schools
• A traveling science museum exhibit devoted to energy and electricity
• Manga comic books with technology and energy as central themes
• Concert tours
• Advertising for TV, online, weekly or monthly newspapers, children's newsletters, radio, and movie theatre chains

• $281 million: The Coal Research Initiative
• $148 million: Solar America Initiative
• $54 million: The FutureGen Initiative, a public/ private partnership for emissions-free coal plants
• $44 million: Wind energy research, including access to Federal lands

• 2004 renewable energy market leaders were: Brazil in biofuels, China in solar hot water, Germany in solar electricity, and Spain in wind power.-REN21
• At least 48 countries now have some type of renewable energy promotion policy, including 14 developing countries.-REN21
• China imports some 3.5 million barrels of oil per day, approximately half of which comes from the Middle East.-US Energy Information Agency
• The Pentagon is the single largest buyer of fuel in the United States, accounting for 1.7 percent of the national consumption

• There are an estimated 250 million vehicles on America's highways; more than 17 million vehicles will be purchased this year
• Despite record profits, the oil industry saved $7 billion in royalty payments in 2005 thanks to a ‘90s era law designed to promote domestic production. The Interior Department loophole lets companies pump an estimated $65 billion worth of oil from public land over the next five years without paying any royalties to the government.-The New York Times


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