US Students Lobby for Clean Energy, Carbon Caps

U.S. President Barack Obama set aside more than $30 billion for several renewable energy projects in the government’s massive economic stimulus package. And this week, thousands of students from across the nation descended on Washington for a youth summit on climate change and energy policy. Many of them went to Capitol Hill to demand action on preserving the environment.

Hundreds of students donned green construction helmets and crowded onto the snow-covered lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol on Monday to call for legislation to curb carbon dioxide emissions and for so-called “green” jobs to jump-start the economy.

Called “Powershift,” the four-day event was organized by the Energy Action Coalition, a group of 50 organizations that advocate clean energy such as wind and solar power. After rallying on Capitol Hill, students visited congressional offices to push for comprehensive global warming legislation.

University of Albany student Rohan Parikh traveled with a group from New York to meet with an aide for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

“We lobbied a legislative assistant for energy and environment issues, and we had a big crowd,” said Rohan Parikh. “We met with him in the hallway right outside the office; we couldn’t fit in the office itself. I believe there were 50 to 80 people for Gillibrand. It’s heartening to see that all these people are here to lobby our new Senator and get her on the right path with these issues.”

Parich says that because Gillibrand is on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, he hopes she and the chairwoman, Democrat Barbara Boxer, can move clean energy legislation out of the committee and onto the Senate floor.

University of California at Berkeley senior Sophia Rios is a political science and environmental policy major. She says that she and some of her classmates flew cross-country to show that California, a state that often leads the nation on environmental issues, can help mobilize change.

“We can’t be known as the generation that knew what was going to happen and knew the effects of what global warming was going to do and then didn’t do anything about it,” said Sophia Rios. “So even though we didn’t cause it, we’re going to feel the effects of it, and we have to do something about it.”

Rios says she hopes that if the United States enacts tough standards to curb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, it can play a leading role at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in December.

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