On March 22 and 23, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, in partnership with the Florida Wildlife Federation, Audubon of Florida, Sierra Club, Environment Florida, and Hands Across the Sand, hosted a Clean Energy Advocates Awards Reception and a Clean Energy Citizen Action Day in Tallahassee. The reception honored those Florida legislators who are revered as climate and energy “pioneers, heroes and champions” in the state. Sen. Lee Constantine was honored as a “pioneer”, Reps. Rick Kriseman and Keith Fitzgerald were recognized as “heroes” and Sen. Nancy Detert (invited) and Rep. Joseph Gibbons were honored as “champions”.
Thirty-five citizens representing the Florida Climate Alliance (FCA) and other organizations attended the Clean Energy Citizen Action Day to meet with their representatives, educating them about their concerns about climate, renewable energy, and offshore oil drilling in the state. Over 30 meetings were held and 40 offices were visited. Their message to enact meaningful renewable energy policies this legislative session was heard loud and clear.
Flashback to 2009, the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) bill was held hostage by House members in the final week of session who wanted offshore drilling to be included in an energy package. An RPS requires utilities in the state to generate or procure a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable resources. Because of this power struggle in the House the RPS failed and the drilling measure was shelved. This session, citizens are demanding that the RPS gets brought back into climate and energy discussions this year. Additionally, they are calling for an end of the debate to open up Florida’s state waters to “Big Oil” especially after the President’s recent announcement to open up federal waters to offshore drilling.
Why an RPS?
There are many reasons that citizens are calling for a renewable portfolio standard including the promise of clean energy jobs and energy independence. Florida has an opportunity to create a new economic engine through renewable energy development. With Florida at 12.2% unemployment, renewable energy is poised to be a job creator. However, state policies that encourage renewable energy investment are needed. Twenty-nine other states are using an RPS as a policy to encourage renewable energy development in their state. Florida must do the same.
Renewable energy is a also a stable, low risk investment that can help put Florida on the road to energy independence. The problem is that the state currently has all their eggs in the fossil fuel basket with nearly 75% of Florida’s energy mix generated by dirty energy sources. Because these fossil fuel resources are imported, those energy dollars are leaving the state. Renewables currently account for less than 4% of Florida’s energy portfolio. There are many renewable energy options for Florida including solar and biomass. An RPS would infuse certainty into these markets that would unleash the production of affordable homegrown energy resources and keep those energy dollars in state.
Opening up Florida’s waters to offshore drilling
Offshore drilling is by far the hottest debate in Florida. While many local municipalities have passed resolutions banning offshore drilling, some House and Senate members are rumored to be working up a bill to open up Florida’s waters to drilling. During the Clean Energy Action Day, citizens also shared their concerns about the prospect of opening up Florida’s beaches to offshore drilling as well as the onshore infrastructure that would threaten the very integrity of their coastal communities.
Many of our volunteers that attended our Action Day continue to carry-on the anti-drilling drumbeat. While Newt Gingrich was in St. Petersburg last week handing out bumper stickers that said “Drill Now Pay Less” he was met with 300 anti-drilling protesters. These protesters peacefully got their message across by wearing black t-shirts that symbolized an oil slick and by carrying signs with messages about the dangers of drilling.
This fight is far from over. Not only are Florida’s beaches vulnerable to the impacts of offshore drilling, but so is the entire Southeast region. Once one state moves forward in opening up their waters to “Big Oil”, it will be a downward spiral. All eyes are watching Florida. Will the Legislature choose an RPS that would create a clean energy economy or will they chose to sell off their beaches to oil interests that will forever change the face of the Sunshine State?