For What It's Worth:  Report on Peak Oil 'Lobbying' or Whatever it's Called When You Don't Get Paid

This article was written last July as you can tell from the amount cited for the National Debt which currently stands at $8 trillion, growing $12,000 per second or $1 billion per day.   The 'lobbying' described yielded only a slight uptick in visits from .gov customers to the website; no surprise but I was in D.C. anyway for a 9/11 conference and had to give lobbying a shot.

Have seen about 70 House and Senate staff members on energy. I know this because of the number of xeroxes left of the packet which consists of Roscoe Bartlett's first Special Order Speech and Page 1 of (It prints out at nine pages.)

After lobbying for four years I've gotten used to the perky blond ponytails swinging down the halls of Congress, the upbeat, Stepford-wives-in-training greetings, (one receptionist hummed 'when the casons go rolling along') but it's always disconcerting to be reminded that this country is run by twelve-year-olds; particularly on this trip when what I'm peddling comes down to a warning of the death of a good chunk of the population.

It's hard to tell what reaction the message is getting.  Mostly, the staffers nod politely. Some get a deer-in-headlights expression then set out to show that they've done their homework on the issue. "I read the Dreyfus book," says one, probably meaning Deffeyes. Others plug their bosses' energy initiatives.

Phase B of the conversation concerns the need to reform the economy since it's not going to keep on growing forever.

This elicits bemused smiles. Nobody pretends to know anything about the idea.   Neither do I and refer the staffers to and, courtesy of, to Herman Daly.

Only a couple of staffers are overtly hostile. One is from the office of Congressman Allen of VA. 'I suggest you check your sources, Ma'am,' he says. 'We need to drill off the coast.'

I cite Lundberg, publisher of the Lundberg Letter, the "Bible of the oil industry" and Simmons of the Bush administration.

'Thank you for stopping by,' says the staffer and strides off.

McCain's office has a whole wall devoted to family photos.  After initially claiming he'd 'love to see' Roscoe Bartlett's material on peak oil, the staffer says the Senator doesn't approve of this sort of approach since it would involve subsidizing windfarms. (So?)  Yet since he's a straight shooter this staffer remains likeable, as you might expect from that office.

Ed Towns' office says they'll contact Bartlett's and endorse whatever bill he's proposing.

Meanwhile, I'm getting a Paul Theroux-like look at the culture of the capital.

Outside the offices of several Senators stands a placard that reads 'National Debt: 7,854,000,000,000. Your share: 26,000." Outside Lautenberg's office is an exhibit entitled 'Let us never forget; faces of the fallen' which consists of ID photos of dead American soldiers in Iraq.

In a Georgia Congressman's office, the receptionist's desk sports a wooden paperweight with the legend carved into it 'Pray.'  It's a forbidding imperative and sizing up this office as a lost cause so far as Peak Oil is concerned, I walk out again.

Warner's is the only office that says you can't see any staff person without an appointment.

Specter's is the most Senatorcentric office as it is dominated by dozens of photos of the Senator with Mrs. Thatcher, Nixon, the Queen, the Pope....

Kathryn Harris' office features a picture of trapeze artists hanging upside down but stiffly, like chrysalises or inverted mummies. However the centerpiece painting is of - I kid you not - a herd of charging elephants.

Other random impressions:

Our legislators are a captive audience for submediocre food; catered by Halliburton, no doubt.

Coca Cola, too, has friends in high places.

As I wait for a receipt in the cafeteria the cashier says, 'You don't have to sign; we know what you did.' She seems oblivious to the ominous sound of her words.

I ask her if there is a camera. She says, 'The computer. We have your address and everything.'

The maps of some Congressional districts should be captioned 'gerrymandering in action.' They look like sick octopi.

The House of Representatives is one of the few places on earth where you can hear a receptionist say, 'I'm sorry; he's in Labor at the moment.'


Last Thursday I turned a corner in the Cannon building and came face to face with an entire corridor of ID photos of dead American soldiers, one exhibit in front of each office.

A man comes out of the first office. From the directness of his eyes I suspect he is the Congressman. Also he's over twelve.

'I'm Congressman Jones of North Carolina,' he says. 'You can probably tell from my accent.'

There follows banter about Southern accents.

'I saw you looking at our exhibit.'

'I wanted to see if they were all from North Carolina,' I say and peer at the captions.

'No,' he says. 'This one's from California. I went to his funeral.'

He talks about the funeral and I start to cry. (Hormones play a role, dissolving barriers.)

'I have a nineteen-year-old son,' I say.

'Who died in Iraq?'

'No, he's OK.... I've seen this exhibit before but never a whole corridor of them.'

Here the account starts going off the record since I'm not wearing a press pass.

'Well X suggested we all do it and everyone agreed, Democrats and Republicans.' (Can you imagine a Congressperson hearing the suggestion and daring to say, 'Thanks, I'll pass'?)

He asks where I'm from so I go into lobbying mode and talk about how Peak Oil is recognized by a Congressman with impeccable Conservative credentials, Roscoe Bartlett.

I also mention the other exhibit in the halls of Congress, about the debt.

Jones' response will remain off the record.  But the impression he leaves is of a decent man with integrity who is open to reason.

This is the guy who introduced a resolution changing the name of French fries to freedom fries.  Perhaps more substantive change is afoot. Too little too late?


Jenna Orkin