Featured C+Ser: John-Michael Cross

CrossFCS2It’s not uncommon to find John­-Michael Cross (C+S ‘09) on Capitol Hill briefing legislative offices on climate and energy issues. In a culture where he only has five minutes to explain science and policy solutions before his audiences rush to their next meeting, it’s paramount for Cross to get to the point and fast. Distilling complex information to its purest form is something he’s worked on perfecting in his five years since graduating from C+S.

It was that link between science and policy that brought Cross to the program in 2008. His two favorite classes during his studies were Dynamics of Climate Variability and Change and Climate Change Law, which neatly string together climate science with the opportunities and challenges of using it to inform policy.

His current position at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), a nonpartisan policy group, gives him the chance to see these classroom lessons play out in real life each day. The Obama Administration has been moving forward with its Climate Action Plan that will limit greenhouse gas emissions and encourage a host of other climate- and energy-related activities across the U.S.

But Congress is a different story. Climate change and energy are two of the most divisive issues debated in its chambers today. Cross’ work is focused on helping breaking down partisan walls to find common ground for lawmakers. That includes working on some issues that might not make front page headlines.

“We try to devote most of our time on less­-heralded policy issues that don’t already have the full attention of the environmental community, which I find more rewarding,” Cross explained.

One of those areas is EESI’s Rural Energy Savings Program, which Cross manages. The program addresses the special challenges and opportunities facing rural communities to save energy, cut household utility bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Through the program, EESI works to connect rural electric cooperatives with federal dollars to finance residential energy efficiency improvements. The cooperatives can then provide their members with low-cost loans for energy-saving retrofits to their homes. The loan is repaid through the resident’s electric bills, with the goal that the efficiency savings cover the loan payments.

The technical knowledge he gained in C+S has helped him navigate some of these hurdles, but the program also left him with other valuable experience: the art of multitasking and knowing where to seek help. Long nights trying to finish homework and papers for multiple classes is par for the course for a number of graduate programs.

“But they weren’t so bad when you had friends [classmates] nearby to bounce around ideas or work out problems,” he said.

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