The Process of Ratification: The Start-to-Finish Tale of the 2007 Energy Bill
Warm-up: What’s so Complicated About Passing a Bill?
- Start by asking students how energy ties into other issues in the United States. Answers will vary but might include the environment, national security, etc.
- Ask students how energy legislation could tie into agriculture? Clean air, water and land legislation, machinery, fertilizer, cover crops and other agriculture techniques, greenhouse gas emissions and limitations, climate change and its effects on land, etc.. Public health? Clean air, water and land and the effects on people, greenhouse gas emissions, healthy food, etc. Labor? Safe work conditions, green jobs, etc. The economy? Green jobs, farmers and agriculture, etc.
- Break students into groups and ask each group to hypothesize why they think energy legislation is so complicated. This should take around 7-8 minutes of time, although the discussion could certainly go on longer. While they are discussing this, they should be filling out Reproducible #1A – Interconnectedness of Energy, provided in the appendix. Possible answers are provided in Reproducible #1B – Interconnectedness of Energy Worksheet with Sample Answers.
- . Students should now receive a brief outline on the 2007 Energy Bill. They will be doing more of their own research later, but will need background and context to start out. Refer to Relevant Information under Lesson Background.
Activity One: Mapping the Path to Passage
- What was the route of the energy bill?This activity explores the path that the energy bill took before it was passed, a year long progression of amendments, committees, and debate.
- First, have students break into groups of 3 to 4, and pass out copies of Reproducible #2 – 2007 Energy Bill Congressional Actions. The list is quite extensive, and students will have to think critically to pick out the parts that are important.
- Have students go through the list in their groups and take note of how many times actions, such as the addition of an amendment or passage to another house, occurred. Highlighters are helpful in this process; it could take 10-20 minutes depending on the focus level of the students, and how much they have previously learned about the congressional process. (For MAJOR Actions, see Reproducible #3 – 2007 Energy Bill Major Congressional Actions.)
- Explain that students will make a flow chart of congressional progress.
- Have students read Reproducible #4 – Flow Chart Overview. They will begin by making a flow chart of the basic congressional process, and then color code the flow chart based on the 2007 energy bill. The arrows indicating processes will be color coded based on how many times each action was used.
Color coding: for an action that happened,
- · 1 time, use a red arrow
- · 2 times, use an orange arrow
- · 3 times, use a yellow arrow
- · 4 times, use a green arrow
- · 5-10 times, use a blue arrow
- · 11 or more times, use a purple arrow
- If the action was the sending of the bill to a committee, list the committee name. If the action was the proposal of an amendment, list the name of the amendment. The list of proposed amendments should also be colored green if eventually passed and red if not passed. If students have not yet learned the congressional process, or you want to save time during the lesson, have them start with Reproducible #5A, 5B, and 5C—pre-made Senate, House, and Closing Procedure Flow Charts and simply color code and label. Refer to Reproducible #6A, 6B, and 6C to see how the flow charts should look when completed.
- Display the flow charts after the activity ends, they should be colorful decorations! This activity should take between 1-1.5 hours, if the students make their own flow charts, or 30 minutes if they start with the pre-made flow chart.
Activity 2: Different Perspectives on Levels of Success
- Ask students to find three different news articles or websites that have covered the 2007 energy bill.
- They will write a short five paragraph paper on the difference in opinion on climate legislation. The first paragraph will introduce the paper’s topic, the following three paragraphs will be summaries on each article or website they read, and the last paragraph will be an explanation of which article they identified with most, and what was similar or different between the three sources. This would be perfect as a homework assignment, but if you choose to have students complete the assignment in class they could take turns discussing which article they liked most and discussing them with the class before turning their papers in.
Higher Level Extension 1: Student Energy Advisors
1. After hearing the history of the bill and reading the summary about the amount of time it took to get through the house, and the different people’s differing opinions, the students should have a clear understanding of the bill and its consequences. They should also have an opinion about the bill, and how it might have been passed differently. As a higher level extension, students will now write the bill they feel should have been passed in 2007. Start with Reproducible #7 – Student Senators: Developing Solutions Worksheet 2 located in the appendix to get students thinking about the bill, and then have them read the instruction on how they will write their own. Some will include much higher involvement from government than others will, as well as different approaches in who should take the responsibility of cutting carbon emissions, businesses or regular people. They will have to think about alternative sources of energy as well, and which sources of energy the country should be moving towards. The instructions on the worksheet specify that the bill should include an introduction and at least four detailed proposals. It should be no shorter than one page. There are questions that should be answered after writing the bill, which can be added at the bottom of the “bill” or on the back.
2. If desired, students can share their ideas for the bill during class before turning the assignment in. “Bills” should be graded out of 15 points, on the apparent quality of effort.
Higher Level Extension 2: A New Energy Bill Debate
- Students now have a chance to see if the bills they created in Higher Level Extension 1 would pass the congressional test. Explain that in one week you will be holding a mock congressional debate as though it were the year 2007, and they were all senators. The debates will be held in groups of 8-10, and each student will be assigned a specific senatorial role to play. To understand how you might assign roles use Reproducible #8- Pre-made Example Senator, or create your own role assignments. Each role has different motivations, backgrounds, political parties, and opinions on the energy bill. The purpose of the diverse senatorial motivations is so that students experience how time consuming and frustrating a debate can be when trying to please a lot of people from all different parts of the country.
- Each group will take turns holding the debate for approximately one hour. They will debate the bill, attempt to attach amendments, and try to pass with a 60% approval vote by the end of the time limit. All debate must take place in senatorial form; all amendments must be attached using the proper senatorial language. No one can speak out of turn. They can also call for “committee meetings,” where students in particular committees can hold a quick meeting (3 minutes or less) in which they can discuss freely and out of form to work something out. The students will be graded as a group on their ability to pass the legislation by the end of the time limit, and individually on comments made during the debate, whether their state’s interest was served, and apparent knowledge of the energy bill and its various side effects. As well, you may refer to Reproducible #9 – Rubric for Senatorial Debate to guide your assessment.
By the end of these lessons, students should understand the difficulty of passing climate legislation, especially in terms of making compromises. They should also have a greater understanding of the Energy Bill of 2007—its history, its controversy, and its content.