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Power Shift 2011: President Obama Meets with Energy Leaders as Activists Protest BP

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Lee Brenner

By Lee Brenner on April 20, 2011

When an army of 10,000 young environmentalists takes to the streets of Washington, DC, it’s almost expected that there would be a little ruckus outside a BP gas station (and rumor has it, there could be more protests at BP stations across the country today).

But when you are protesting current government policies in a town where its leaders know that not all publicity is good publicity, you also might get a sit-down with the President of these United States.

This past weekend at the Energy Action Coalition‘s (EAC) annual Power Shift Conference, organizers trained activists from around the country to light a flame under the proverbial ass of the clean energy movement. I sat down with Courtney Hight and Maura Cowley, former Obama 2008 campaign staffers and current Co-Directors of the Energy Action Coalition, just before the conference began, in order to hear their call to action.

Well, it seems the White House heard their call, as well, so as the top brass of the EAC were meeting with senior officials in the West Wing last Friday, President Obama dropped into the meeting.

I reached out to Maura with a few post-presidential follow-up questions:

LB: You were able to meet with President Obama on Friday. How’d the meeting go? Was he responsive to your concerns?

Our meeting with President Obama was great. We had a good back and forth dialogue about what clean energy is, and what it isn’t. We talked about how nuclear, coal, oil and gas are not clean energy. Right now, Obama is saying those forms of energy are clean, but in fact, they’re quite dirty and dangerous.

Obama was responsive. We talked about how bi-partisan the country is right now but that we still need to push a real, 100% safe and clean energy economy forward.

LB: Any lessons learned by you from the conference? Successes? Roadblocks?

MC: Lesson number one: bringing 10,000 young people together is a lot of work! The conference went really well. We trained all of the attendees in grassroots organizing skills and got them fired up to go home and organize locally for clean energy.

No major roadblocks to report. Things went really well.

LB: What are the “marching orders” for the 10,000 attendees going forward?

MC: The 10,000 Power Shifters are heading back to their communities ready to organize locally for a clean energy future. They’ll be working to transition beyond dirty energy sources and will be pushing for more energy efficiency and renewable energy. But that’s not all. They’ll also be demanding that President Obama and Congress follow their lead and enact a national clean energy plan.

LB: Are you hopeful that your goals of clean energy will be able to cut through the politics/economics on the opposition?

MC: Young people are a force to be reckoned with in this country, and we’re asking for very reasonable and do-able changes. We feel confident that with the right pressure from young people, we can change the way this country produces and consumes energy.

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