This past Friday, an intercollegiate student coalition comprised of 17 Free the Planet members from GW and Georgetown Universities students demonstrated their dedication to protecting the environment in a more productive manner. The students visited 13 member offices to push three amendments to add onto the White House’s highly-touted energy plan. This particular method of activism is the right move in changing an energy plan doing little to reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign oil for the foreseeable future.
For three weeks, professional lobbyists from the National Environmental Trust and Alaska Wilderness League trained the student-led coalition on how to lobby Congress effectively. Taking the necessary steps to train themselves is a shrewd step toward getting real changes passed. Even if this effort fails to cause change, the group has prepared itself to be heard on more issues in the future.
The three amendments proposed by the newly-trained student coalition include provisions to increase fuel efficiency in cars and light trucks, prohibit drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and require utility companies to use a higher percentage of renewable sources.
Although the changes proposed by the students are nothing new to the contentious debate of the nation’s energy woes, students making their views known to Congress only spurs the political dialogue by making politicians aware of how many people actually care about the issue. John Myers, legislative assistant to Specter, mirrored this sentiment when he said Congress always welcomes more voices to gauge voter sentiment.
Few would disagree that switching immediately to renewable energy and other technologies like hydrogen fuel cells would be too costly for businesses and consumers. But the gradual transition should complement heavy government support of new technologies to hasten their arrival, thereby eradicating the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
Assuming there is an abundance oil in Alaska, there is no certainty ANWR will furnish the country with enough oil to make any material impact. Unfortunately, arguments to save an important national wildlife refuge have not convinced lawmakers.
It would be nice if more students and student-led groups took the same stance toward getting involved, instead of sitting on the sidelines and collecting big budgets from the Student Association.
This article appeared in the March 4, 2002 issue of the Hatchet.