Washington NRDC

Washington NRDC

Hey look how clever my title is

It feels a little weird to be writing my one-month in blog when a lot of people have already finished their internships, but that’s what happens when you commit to a fall internship.   Anyways I’ve been at the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) Washington DC office for about a month now so it’s time for my contribution to the blogosphere.

Where to start? Well if you haven’t figured it out by now working to promote sensible environmental policy can be pretty daunting, if nothing else this experience has impressed upon me the fact that there are smart, dedicated people working on behalf of the planet, which makes me hopeful for the future.

The NRDC is a large organization with multiple offices that has sub groups around pretty much any environmental issue you can think of.  I’m in the Clean Air/Climate group working on providing economic and policy analysis when needed.  For example last week my supervisor gave a radio interview about Solyndra and clean energy in general so I spent some time researching renewable energy and finding relevant facts and figures to help her make her argument.

In general I am doing a lot of reading about renewable energy both from a policy as well as a technology perspective; unfortunately the two are rarely connected.  That is to say the political debate around integrating renewable energy has very little to do with the technological issues. One of the challenging aspects of the RE debate is trying to forecast the improvement in technology and what that means from a policy perspective.

I also try to go to as many meetings and lectures as I can.  Yes, some of them are kind of boring, but they are a great way to network and get a sense of what other people are working on.  They are also the easiest way to understand office dynamics and get a sense of how other groups and people think about different issues.

Remember when I said that there were smart and dedicated people working on behalf on the environment? Well that’s true but the other thing that this internship has really hammered home is that there are dedicated (and at least reasonably intelligent) people working to advance the oil and coal industry agenda as well.  As a result I read a lot of questionable studies and arguments from people who suggest that clean energy is a pipe dream and a burden on a productive economy etc. That part of the job can get a little depressing but one soldiers on the best one can.

One of my favorite parts about this job is the chance to get some firsthand exposure to real world politics.  I know that laws are like sausages in that if you like them you should never watch them get made, but I find the process kind of fascinating. For example the house recently passed an awful bill called the TRAIN ACT and some democrats voted for it including PA representative Tim Holden.  So the NRDC produced a TV ad criticizing him for that vote and aired it in his district.  Unsurprisingly he didn’t really appreciate that, but it was a bad bill and so we stand by our criticism. Discussions about how best to advance our desire to see specific bills or amendments either succeed or fail are endlessly fascinating to me.  At the end of the day, the NRDC has an agenda of promoting environmental quality, but how we go about pursuing that agenda is a topic I enjoy learning more about.

Washington DC is a cool city with some fun stuff to do and it’s also very bike friendly. There is also lots of Indian food which makes me happy. One advantage to being in a city with fellow BCEPers is that you can join Frisbee leagues with them.   Hope you’re all doing well.


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