Florida's fuel consumption would also decline dramatically and lessen its dependence on both dirty and foreign sources of fossil energy -- a projected total fuel savings of 53.5 billion gallons of petroleum, 200.2 million short tons of coal, and 6.394 billion cubic feet of natural gas during the period of 2009 through 2025.
What is particularly noteworthy is that this plan emerges from the Republican stronghold of Governor Charlie Crist's administration, a man who was on the short list for Vice-Presidential nominee. Secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection Michael Sole headed up Crist's Action Team on Energy and Climate Change which produced the plan. He was deputy secretary of the department under former governor Jeb Bush.
Kathleen Shanahan, who was Jeb Bush's chief of staff, also served on the Action Team. She also served as Chief of Staff for Vice President-elect Dick Cheney during the 2000 presidential campaign and transition. Also on the action team was Mark Kaplan, who also served in the capacity of Chief of Staff for Jeb Bush when he was governor. Rick Baker, Republican Mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida also helped produce the plan. All 50 recommendations were adopted unanimously by the 27 members of the action team.
Although the plan's focus is on Florida, its release is timely and important to the national dialogue on the fate of climate change solutions during these economically troubled times. The authors state in no uncertain terms that they believe climate action is not a costly policy package best postponed for better times, but the central and vital engine of economic recovery.
The Action Team completes its charge during a time of economic uncertainty. While it may be assumed by some readers that the current economic environment would hamper Florida’s progress toward a low‐carbon economy, the Action Team firmly believes that current economic conditions precisely sharpen the "call to action" first issued by Governor Crist in 2007. Now is the time for strategic investment in Florida’s low‐carbon energy infrastructure if we are to be successful in diversifying the state’s economy, creating new job opportunities, and positioning Florida’s "green tech" sector as an economic engine for growth.
The plan is probably the most advanced and comprehensive of any climate program in the nation and provides of model for national emulation. A large number of climate actions are already being implemented, thanks to a series of Executive Orders and laws enacted by the Florida legislature. Governor Crist issued three orders in 2007. The state legislature, during its regular 2008 session, passed three bills, including House Bill 7135 (HB 7135), which contains many provisions that are moving Florida aggressively forward in energy security and climate change mitigation. Some of the recently enacted policies and programs are already in rulemaking, and the state can point to a significant number of early achievements in state government greenhouse gas emissions reductions, private sector renewable energy projects, utility‐based solar energy, energy efficiency, and related research and development.
The plan also takes a sensible approach to cap and trade. Florida will examine the pros and cons of joining existing regional cap and trade efforts -- RGGI and WCI in particular -- and will likely join RGGI. RGGI, or the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, is already auctioning carbon permits in 10 Northeastern states and will officially kick off in January 2009. The Florida plan regards cap and trade as a measure to be used in combination with the other 49 state policy actions, not as a silver bullet solution that will send an all-transforming market signal.
The cap‐and‐trade program is intended to be implemented concurrently with other recommended policy actions, to guarantee that emissions targets are met within the covered sectors, and, potentially, to generate additional reductions and cost savings.
The Action team was cautious about the cap and trade policy. The plan's huge emissions reductions and billions of dollars in cost savings were all projected without inclusion of the impact of cap and trade. The expectation is that after further analysis, cap and trade will contribute to even steeper emissions reductions and by bringing more flexibility to the market, will support the overall cost-saving potential of the plan.
The Florida plan comes as a capstone to a recent flurry of climate action in the Southeast, which has been the most laggard region in the nation, despite being the most carbon-intensive. South Carolina, under the leadership of Republican governor Mark Sanford, released its climate plan a few weeks ago. Arkansas is set to release its plan by the end of the month. North Carolina, which completed a plan last year, has also just completed a jobs study which shows impressive job creation as a result of recommended climate policies -- congruent with Florida's expectation of the economic development potential of action.
The plan is sure to have national political implications in the weeks before the Presidential election. It confirms the green jobs and approach to energy and climate issues strongly advocated by the Democrats, and highlights the consequences of McCain's choice of Sarah Palin, a climate skeptic, as his running mate, instead of someone closer to the mainstream, like Charlie Crist.
It also drives a stake into the heart of a heavily-funded denialist effort to stall state-level climate action, which targeted the Center for Climate Strategies -- the neutral and expert facilitator of the Florida planning process, and many others -- with a misinformation campaign. The campaign relied on op-eds, endless FOIA requests and an economic critique authored by the Beacon Hill Institute to try to generate right-wing political heat, but a recently completed peer review found Beacon Hill's study to be analytically flawed and biased with a pre-determined ideological agenda. The negative campaign, led by the John Locke Foundation and the Heartland Institute, was ignored, now finally in Florida's Republican insider stronghold.
Though Governor Crist was a Republican loyalist as an early supporter of lifting the offshore drilling moratorium, this plan demonstrates where his true intelligence is focused -- not so much on "drill, baby, drill" but more on "jobs, baby, jobs." With this plan, he has redefined the national center on climate and energy issues which holds out hope that with a new administration in partnership with bipartisan leadership governors, strong climate and energy policy will be at the top of the nation's action agenda, despite the current economic crisis.
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