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Industry Groups Take the Initiative With Senate Climate Bill Near

Climate activists floated rooftops in the Reflecting Pool last week to commemorate Hurricane Katrina's anniversary.
Climate activists floated rooftops in the Reflecting Pool last week to commemorate Hurricane Katrina's anniversary. (By Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)
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"We're sitting in a room right now that is overly air-conditioned," one woman said when the panel took questions. "My concern is that we have . . . thousands of inefficient buildings."

This was the Athens stop of the "Made in America Jobs Tour," a series of events put on by environmental and labor groups. It was, in some ways, the green side's answer to events like the "Energy Citizen" rallies -- but the two hardly seemed to belong to the same debate.

In a classroom at Ohio University, nobody shouted, nobody sang, nobody waved a sign. They talked about solar energy, home energy audits, utility regulation. Somebody else talked about the air conditioning. The House climate-change bill was barely mentioned.

The group behind this event said its rallies will be much bigger this week, including one in Detroit on Monday and another in Gary, Ind., on Tuesday attended by EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

It's hard to know now if anybody is winning. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 52 percent of Americans supported the cap-and-trade approach used in the House climate bill.

In the Midwestern heart of the current ad blitz, the office of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has been getting calls from people inspired by environmental groups' TV ads. But in the office of Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), a staff member said letters were running 100 for and 7,000 against climate legislation.

Even the optimists in the environmental movement talk about the next few months as a cliffhanger, rather than a sure thing.

"I often refer to it as 'The Moment.' It's the moment we've all been waiting and working for, for a very long time," said Maggie L. Fox, CEO of the Alliance for Climate Protection, an activist group founded by former vice president Al Gore. "Yes, it's a test for the environmental movement. But it's a test for our civilization."

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.


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