Michael Dobson: Florida must get serious about renewable energy


Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 2:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 2:05 p.m.

A year later and with only days left in the 2012 session, Florida may once again try to pass a renewable energy bill that will not produce renewable energy. Florida’s HB 7117 and SB 2094 have proven just that, to even include Tea Party rallies in opposition.

It all began at the October, 2011, Florida Energy Summit, when an odd thing happened. The Commissioner of Agriculture, the new go-to guy for energy policy in Florida, told hundreds of fee-paying attendants that they should not expect robust energy policy. He told them to lower their expectations. Then, in January, 2012, he also told house and senate committees that he wanted to lower expectations, in even more sobering terms. He elaborated by saying that by lowing expectations, he also meant eradicating all language referenced in statute to renewable energy goals. And, that is what the current bills does.

By eliminating any reference to a Florida Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) from Florida statute in the 2012 bills, Florida is turning its back on growing a renewable energy industry and certainly sends the wrong message to investors and the industry at large. The 30-plus states ( many without Florida’s sunshine) that have an RPS policy has generated more renewable energy, created more jobs and has attracted more investment dollars as a result. If current bills pass without goals, the bills will not only be modest with regard to renewable energy, they will be is irrelevant. Not to mention that even in the context of a comprehensive policy, the bill eliminates references to hydrogen and gives a back hand to natural gas. The real difficulty with passing an energy bill is that no one, including renewable energy advocates want to tell the truth.

The truth is, renewable energy , not unlike any new industry will require a long-term commitment . It would require a real commitment of money which 70 percent of taxpayers have overwhelmingly stated they are willing to commit. And in the short term, not unlike the start of any major shift in technology, there will be failures and many lessons learned. But, the American spirit of innovation and our rugged ability to stick it out will get us through that.

But for political purposes, it is much easier to call it a waste or foolhardy. We must remember that once we thought the world was flat, we thought man could not fly, we thought Edison was a flake, we laughed at Marconi and said wireless communications would not work, and we thought Steve Jobs was just some crazy kid. My question is how are we to reclaim our greatness if we demagogue innovation.

This issue has vexed the very best. The most experienced member of the legislature to shepard a renewable energy bill was the late Senator Jim King, in the 2009 legislative session. He came the closest to getting a bill passed with renewable energy standards. But despite his best efforts, that bill was ultimately derailed by a last minute effort to add offshore oil drilling language to the bill.

If only the legislature would simply look at what is working in other states and give what they are accomplishing serious thought. Yes, it’s called a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) and yes it is CALIFORNIA (the state that the Florida politicians love to hate) that has made it popular. Florida legislators need to get over it if we are to have energy policy in

Florida, it (the RPS) works. It creates jobs, brings technology to the forefront and diversifies energy resources.

Playing politics with renewable energy is simply a bet against American innovation.

Michael Dobson,

President/CEO

Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association

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