Gas prices will be high for at least the next few weeks. It is going to hurt. The media are going to be all over the issue. Bad air days, the Day After Tomorrow and Presidential politics are shaping up a media cyclone on energy. Get ready for a whirlwind of attention around energy issues.
This is a great time for a network-centric response from the movement. No one was pitching foundations and donors on a high gas price campaign two months ago. If you care about hurting policy makers that in federal office this is a good issue to jump on.
What does this mean to advocacy groups?
1. There will be new calls for all the wrong things (open reserves, pop open the Arctic Refuge, decrease environmental regulation and... tax breaks for the rich).
2. Other issues will fall lower on the priority (attention) scale for a moment.
3. Opportunity to engage new people for a few weeks.
4. There is going to be interest in the groups that have ties to the issue.
5. The media will need people to comment on story angles and debate energy issues.
What should you do?
* Develop your talking points.
This administration has continually demonstrated favoritism toward the oil industry over the concerns of ordinary people...opposing efficiency standards, creating Hummer Tax breaks, gutting clean air, green space and environmental protection. It is no surprise that higher gas prices pump millions of dollars of new revenue into the Texas oil economy. It is no surprise that our over dependance on energy continue to degrade quality of life. Feeding this economy more gas to solve an energy crisis is like feeding a pig more food to solve a weight problem. ......High painful gas prices are not merely a market trend it is a reflection of years of bad policy on fuel standards, energy efficiency requirements, sprawl and failure to seriously invest in renewable energy. It is a reflection of a hostile foriegn policy. People need mass transit (cut and opposed by lawmakers), need clean air that comes with better efficiency engines, need work and housing that are close to each other, they need recreational opportunities and green spaces that close at hand rather than far away.
....... Local politicians are not blame free. Local ordinances were defeated that would have saved millions in energy efficiency investments. The localities purchased SUVs and gas guzzler vehicles rather than hybrids. Today, people can do something to get the economy moving in the right direction, the sustainable direction. Towns can pass....
...Stop sending our family recreation money to Texas oil companies. Stop sending hard earned dollars to the Middle East. Pass laws that reduce our energy consumption.
* Advocacy Groups Must Get Ready...Move Resources
Move staff, tools and budget into the energy,climate, air, green space and program areas of your operations. Stop working on that report that you think was going to make big news (unless it is about gas) and table it until after this news cycle runs the course. Focus your web, email newsletters and press efforts on the energy "hook".
Develop at least 1 page on your site that talks about the policy that you worked on that would have helped improve energy efficiency. Develop a "high gas price email appeal" include the impact that high gas prices will have on your activities (travel costs, clean ups, organizing, etc.) You need more money because gas is more expensive (the appeal will not only drive home the point that high gas prices are sucking the budget out of schools, police, cities and nonprofit groups but out of their personal budgets and it may raise you some cash!)
* Prepare for Success
If you normally work alone on mass transit issues, energy issues or sustainability and efficiency issues you may have the opportunity to work with and organize many new volunteers (Most will only stick around while prices hurt so be prepared to do something constructive with them - have them meet at a local coffee shop to develop ten story angles and ten things anyone can take to save Gas. ) ...have volunteers check air pressure at gas stations and pass out literature...guide people as they check their own oil pressure...boycott the most expensive stations...offer people walking escorts to and from local mass transit...encourage folks to trade in SUV's for better cars.
Rally Your Speakers
Organize a cooffe discussion of talking points around energy issues. Bring a video recorder and practice interviewing each other. Jump on the talk radio and hammer the point home. Have talk radio parties at a local bar and use cell phones to jam a show about gas price issue.
Work the opportunity .
High gas prices hurt. They effect everyone. This is a bad issue for policy makers that have cozied up to the energy industry. The movement can loose ground or gain ground during this cycle. Loan your talents and expertise to the groups that can make best use of you for the next few weeks.
The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Bush and Kerry Camps Trade Blows Over Gasoline Prices
All told, prices have risen 43 cents per gallon since January 1," they said in the letter. "In addition, small businesses and commercial drivers are struggling to keep up with the cost of diesel fuel, and the cumulative impact of these price increases has fueled inflationary growth and hurt our economy."