Facilitating a National Energy Policy Initiative

CBI and the Rocky Mountain Institute design and facilitate the National Energy Policy Initiative to produce expert consensus on policy priorities and disseminate their conclusions in testimony before Congress.

Background and Challenges

Over the past 30 years, national energy policy has often been bogged down in ideological debates and short-term bargaining among political and energy constituency leaders. Though scientists, engineers, and advocates have come up with ideas for economic innovation, such as commercializing high-efficiency gasoline and hybrid automobiles and promoting “smart growth” to reduce transportation demand, these ideas have not had significant influence on national policy. Shorter-term interests have often dominated the legislative and regulatory process. Rarely has national energy policy produced joint gains in economic efficiency, environmental protection and national security.

The National Energy Policy Initiative was a strategic response to this pattern of conflict in national energy politics. CBI, in partnership with Raab Associates, Ltd. collaborated with the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) to design and facilitate the National Energy Policy Initiative. The goal of the Initiative was to build consensus on national energy policy among a diverse group of distinguished energy experts, and to present this work to policy makers in Congress and the Executive branch. Several U.S. Senators and Representatives, including then-Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), informally sponsored the Initiative.

The CBI Approach

CBI interviews senior officials in the energy sector, convenes and facilitates an expert workshop that reaches consensus on key areas of energy policy, and disseminates the conclusions of the workshop to Congress and the media.

CBI and RMI launched the National Energy Policy Initiative to make a constructive, non-partisan contribution to the policy process. The Initiative had three parts:

  • An assessment of national energy policy political opportunities and constraints
  • A facilitated expert workshop
  • Dissemination of the Initiative’s results

In conducting the assessment, CBI and RMI interviewed 75 senior officials from stakeholder groups representing energy producers and consumers, energy service providers, environmental groups, and regulators. These interviews produced a useful map of shared goals, areas of potential convergence on specific issues, and particularly controversial issues which touched on core interests and values.

CBI and RMI then convened an expert workshop, attended by a group of twenty-two leaders in the field of energy policy. Most of the participants had served in senior positions in government, the private sector, and academia. Several had served as policy-makers in Republican and Democratic administrations. Even with the diversity of the group and the complexity of the issues, the participating experts were able to reach consensus (with one exception) on:

  • A diagnosis of major shortcomings in our current energy policies
  • A long-term vision for energy policy
  • A set of top priority areas for policy action
  • Strategies for each priority area

After the workshop, twelve other leading national experts endorsed its conclusions. RMI took the lead in disseminating the “Assessment and Expert Workshop Report” to assessment interviewees, the national news media, energy policy publications, and Congressional leaders.


The Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee co-hosts a Congressional briefing on the Initiative; and, the House Subcommittee on Energy Policy, National Resources and Regulatory Affairs hears testimony on the Initiative.

CBI and RMI’s effort to build consensus among energy experts generated a respected set of policy proposals with the potential to address some of the issues at the heart of political gridlock. Senator Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Chairman of the Energy Subcommittee of the House Science Committee, co-hosted a Congressional briefing on the Initiative. In June, Congressmen Mark Udall (D-CO) and Zach Wamp (R-TN), then-co-chairs of the House Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Caucus, co-sponsored a presentation of the Initiative through the Congressional Environment and Energy Study Institute. Testimony on the Initiative was presented to the House Subcommittee on Energy Policy, National Resources and Regulatory Affairs.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons/joshuadelaughter