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Changing Florida's energy policy has support, but it may lack money

For Barney Bishop, president of the Tallahassee-based Associated Industries of Florida, it's too much, too soon. "We're willing to go in the same direction the governor wants to go, but he wants to go 100 miles per hour, and we want to go 50 miles per hour," Bishop said. "They talk about, 'we can do this, we can do that,' but they just assume people are going to be willing to pay the costs." Bishop wants a cost-benefit analysis for the governor's plan, and argued that Florida won't benefit from any push to curb greenhouse gas emissions if the states around it don't do something similar.

The message from the incoming legislature about changing the state's energy policy is clear: We're going to get it done.

But Floridians have heard that one before.

The Florida Energy Commission has been presenting a glossy, bound copy of its recommendations for a new energy policy to various House and Senate committees.

Those recommendations have been divided into more than two dozen bills, and should head to the committees that closely pertain to that subject.

For example, the Senate Community Affairs likely will address the issues relating to energy-efficient building codes; the Senate Committee on Agriculture will review matters on biodiesel and biofuels.

The Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, chaired by Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples, is expected to sponsor the main energy bill for that chamber.

Clean-energy advocates have been pushing lawmakers for a good two years to go green: Get more electricity from wind, solar and biomass; clean up the car emissions; live and work in energy-efficient buildings.

And while red pens and scissors are the norm for getting any sort of bill through the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The message from the incoming legislature about changing the state's energy policy is clear: We're going to get it done.

But Floridians have heard that one before.

The Florida Energy Commission has been presenting a glossy, bound copy of its recommendations for a new energy policy to various House and Senate committees.

Those recommendations have been divided into more than two dozen bills, and should head to the committees that closely pertain to that subject.

For example, the Senate Community Affairs likely will address the issues relating to energy-efficient building codes; the Senate Committee on Agriculture will review matters on biodiesel and biofuels.

The Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, chaired by Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples, is expected to sponsor the main energy bill for that chamber.

Clean-energy advocates have been pushing lawmakers for a good two years to go green: Get more electricity from wind, solar and biomass; clean up the car emissions; live and work in energy-efficient buildings.

And while red pens and scissors are the norm for getting any sort of bill through the legislature, supporters of the ambitious energy policy the state is proposing this year say they've got momentum on their side.

One thing they might not have, however, is money.

"We will start this year with a $68 billion budget, not a $71 billion budget. That's a big difference," said Rep. David Murzin, R-Pensacola, chairman of the House Committee on Utilities and Telecommunication. "Where do you cut? You have to cut."

GOP Gov. Charlie Crist continues to ride the wave from a July energy summit in Miami. At the summit, he ordered the state to slash greenhouse-gas emissions 80 percent by 2050; mandated that utilities get 20 percent of their renewable fuels by 2020; and told state agencies to figure out a way to work in energy-efficient buildings and drive cleaner cars fueled by biodiesel.

This year, he wants more.

His recommendations include $200 million in incentives to kick-start a renewable-energy economy fueled by solar, wind and biofuels. He also is calling for more biodiesel at the pump, for utilities to curb energy use by 20 percent and for buildings to be 45 percent more efficient by 2018.

For Barney Bishop, president of the Tallahassee-based Associated Industries of Florida, it's too much, too soon.

"We're willing to go in the same direction the governor wants to go, but he wants to go 100 miles per hour, and we want to go 50 miles per hour," Bishop said. "They talk about, 'we can do this, we can do that,' but they just assume people are going to be willing to pay the costs."

Bishop wants a cost-benefit analysis for the governor's plan, and argued that Florida won't benefit from any push to curb greenhouse gas emissions if the states around it don't do something similar.

"We can do all the right things, but if the other Southeastern states aren't, we can pay the price," Bishop said. "This is a world problem, and we applaud the governor. We just want him to slow down and make sure we're not just doing this by ourselves."

A combination of straitened budgets and costly mandates could end up putting the state in the red, Murzin said.

"The cost of what the governor has put us in the direction of literally could double the power costs to folks in the Panhandle," he said.

He worries that Gulf Power Corp.'s coal-fired power plant there may have to shut down in a couple of years because it won't meet the state's proposed greenhouse gas regulations. More than 1,700 people work at that plant, which is 10 miles from Alabama, he said.

"You can shut down that plant and build another plant in Alabama, and where would those jobs be located? Alabama," he said. "Or you could replace it with gas-powered peaker units, which would employ one-third of the people, so there's certainly a big economic impact there." Peaker units provide energy to plug spot shortages.

Others remain optimistic that the governor's clean-energy priorities will get top billing, even in a tight budget year.

"The governor's office has a strong case to make," said Jerry Karnas, Florida Climate Project director for New York-based Environmental Defense. "When it comes to spending money in this fashion, we'll end up saving money - they can make a strong argument that they need those investments."

Sen. Lee Constantine told the Florida Energy Commission in February he "doesn't have a lot of faith" in spending millions of dollars in incentives for clean-energy technologies but that utilities, researchers and companies looking for those financial breaks should go elsewhere instead of scrapping their projects altogether simply because the state isn't coming up with the money.

"We've got to quit looking at the government to sit there and just hand out these grants," said Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs. "Many of them are going to do it anyway, so we have to look to the private market or venture capital to help them."

The Department of Environmental Protection, however, recently awarded $12.5 million to eight organizations under the state's Renewable Energy Technologies Grant Program to encourage wind, solar, biofuel and other alternative energy sources.

Florida Power & Light Co., the state's largest utility, which saw $836 million in profits for 2007, was awarded $2.5 million for nine proposed wind turbines for St. Lucie County.

The energy commission, a legislative agency created two years ago to come up with long-term energy reform for the state, handed off its recommendations to the Florida House and Senate late last year. Constantine, the sole appointed legislator on that agency, is shepherding those recommendations - now divided into a handful of bills - through the legislature.

"It's my intention that we will do everything we can to pass all of the recommendations that need legislative approval in one form or another," Constantine told commission members during a recent meeting at Florida Atlantic University's SeaTech campus in Dania Beach.

Constantine has been here before. He sponsored the bill that created the energy commission two years ago and had heavy input into last year's legislation.

His confidence in this year's bills partly comes the support of influential members such as Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, but also because the recommendations closely resemble the goals Crist spelled out in his executive orders.

"The governor's proposals were frankly in concert with ours," Constantine said.

Energy commission President Tommy Buroughs was cautiously optimistic at the meeting.

"We wish they had more money, but that's the way it goes," Buroughs said.

Fueling legislation (sidebar)

The Florida Energy Commission has been presenting a glossy, bound copy of its recommendations for a new energy policy to various House and Senate committees.

Those recommendations have been divided into more than two dozen bills, and should head to the committees that closely pertain to that subject.

For example, the Senate Community Affairs likely will address the issues relating to energy-efficient building codes; the Senate Committee on Agriculture will review matters on biodiesel and biofuels.

The Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, chaired by Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples, is expected to sponsor the main energy bill for that chamber.

The House is expected to also have one major bill, which is likely to come from the Committee on Energy, chaired by Rep. Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda.

Major points of Crist's plan:

Here is a look at the major points of Gov. Charlie Crist's 2008 energy plan:

Calls for $200 million in incentives to spur development of an alternative-energy industry. Included: $107.5 million for businesses that try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; $50 million in grants, rebates and tax breaks for solar, wind and other renewables; $42.5 million in grants and incentives for biofuels

Directs the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a cap-and-trade plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Sets a standard to have at least 5 percent of gasoline contain biofuels, including E-85, by 2012, and 10 percent by 2015 or sooner

Requires utilities to get 20 percent of their annual energy through efficiency and conservation measures

Seeks corporate and sales tax incentives to spur wind energy

Improves building codes to make them 45 percent more efficient by 2018

Increases incentives for energy-efficient appliances such as pool and water heaters

Creates the Florida Energy and Climate Protection Commission and puts it in the governor's office. This will do away with the Florida Energy Office, which is under the DEP.

Creates Florida Green Government Grantsfor cities, counties and school districts to develop cost-efficient ways to reduce greenhouse gases


Source: http://www.palmbeachpost.co...

MAR 2 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/13609-changing-florida-s-energy-policy-has-support-but-it-may-lack-money
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