Energy efficiency seems like one of those ideas that should be a surefire winner on Capitol Hill, like promoting nutrition for children or safety for pets. But sometimes a program's popularity can be a handicap when it comes to Congress — just ask Elizabeth Tate, the new director of government relations for the Alliance to Save Energy.
When legislation to bolster federal energy-efficiency standards was brought to the Senate floor in September, it quickly became mired in debate over unrelated issues like the Keystone XL pipeline and the Affordable Care Act.
Tate, 31, found it painful to watch. "Putting in place better energy-efficiency policies would be an easy way to improve so many things," she said. "So it was disappointing to see that non-germane issues took away the opportunity to have a discussion about the bill."
When the bill stalled last fall, Tate hadn't yet started working at the alliance, a coalition of public and private groups promoting energy productivity through public policy. But she's been focused on energy efficiency for years.
She started her career at the New York City law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson after graduating from the University of Virginia and attending the University of Pennsylvania Law School, but Tate was anxious to get back to her hometown of Washington. She landed a job with the House Science Committee in 2010 and energy issues ended up on her plate.
"I was doing background research on energy efficiency and looking at whether or not it was something we should be looking at on the committee," she said. "That's when I really became interested in energy efficiency.
"It's something that resonates with me because it touches every aspect of our economy. It's a way to reduce the need for increased electric-generation capacity, and from a consumer perspective it reduces out-of-pocket energy costs."
In 2012, Tate began working on legislative and regulatory affairs at the American Public Gas Association, a trade group representing publicly owned natural-gas companies. While Tate says she learned a lot about energy issues at APGA, she jumped at the chance to work at the alliance because she believed it would provide a platform to advance energy-efficiency policies on a much larger scale.
"APGA is a great organization and has amazing people, but I decided to come over to the alliance because our work here is at the forefront of pushing the goal of doubling the nation's energy productivity," Tate said. "We see energy productivity as a major economic driver. It's a way to create jobs and it's a way to help move the country towards energy independence."
Tate added that despite the problems the energy-efficiency bill encountered last fall, "I'm highly optimistic that we'll see movement on it this year."