The Sector Where the Energy Is

Could Fannie Mae (and Freddie Mac) be trying to make lemonade while shareholders pucker?
Could Fannie Mae (and Freddie Mac) be trying to make lemonade while shareholders pucker? (By Manuel Balce Ceneta -- Associated Press)

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By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

You're nobody in Washington these days unless you're part of a coalition that's lobbying on energy prices.

The airlines and the gas station owners each have coalitions. Both are designed to stop "speculators" from driving up the cost of oil.

The "speculators" -- meaning banks and other financial interests -- yesterday bolstered their own coalition to push back. They decided to mount a PR counterattack, with ads and a Web site. The group is so new, however, that it doesn't even have a name. (Any good suggestions? Send them my way.)

Then there are the anti-drillers, such as the Sierra Club and Environment America, which have a loose coalition called the National Outer Continental Shelf Coalition. "It's not our best title," admitted Athan Manuel of the Sierra Club, "but it's been effective."

Feeling left out? Want to climb aboard? Not to worry. Just about everyone else in town -- at least on the corporate side -- will soon have the chance to join a coalition and feel part of the action.

In a letter sent last week to business associations, some of the biggest names in the corporate world said they are putting together something called the Coalition for Affordable American Energy.

The group is billed as a federation of energy users -- and who doesn't fit that description? The group "will add a voice not heard in any concerted way before in the energy debate -- that of the thousands of businesses, large and small, which depend upon affordable energy supplies to operate," according to the letter.

The group's goal: to bring down the price of energy in any way possible.

"The coalition will support initiatives which encourage conservation and the development of renewable and alternative energy sources," the letter states. But it adds: "Our focus will be on increasing domestic oil and gas production since alternative sources will not be able to meet U.S. demand for the next 25 years or more."

Backers of the group represent a broad swath of American business. They include the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, which is the primary small-business lobby.

The organization will not be pressing for minute, specific changes in law. Rather, it will seek action that can save businesses money on the energy front in any way.

"It is not our intention to enter the debate on specific policies at the 'micro' level in great detail," the letter states. "Instead, CAAE will focus on bringing the collective weight of business users to bear until such time as a national domestic energy policy is adopted which will accomplish our goal."


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