| Special to The News-Press
Florida has weathered the coronavirus storm better than most states. As we begin to move past the pandemic and toward a strong recovery, we need to ensure that all sectors of the economy are firing. President Joe Biden’s recent moves on energy and the environment would make that harder to achieve.
In addition to establishing new layers of bureaucracy, the administration is poised to adopt a series of greenhouse gas regulations that seek to commandeer state regulatory systems — including Florida’s — with stringent national standards and unrealistic deadlines.
Instead of unproductive, one-size-fits-all dictates from Washington that fail to produce better environmental outcomes, we believe a better policy would embrace bottom-up innovation, and empower people in their own communities to be conscientious stewards of the environment.
That is what we aim to accomplish with legislation which would require approval from Tallahassee for the state’s participation in any program regulating greenhouse gas emissions created by regional climate initiatives, federal mandates, or international treaties or agreements.
This is the most effective way to ensure elected officials in Florida have a seat at the table, and leverage over a de facto federal takeover of the state’s energy policy.
Experience has shown that we get results.
Since 2006, Florida has reduced per capita energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by over 25 percent, more than twice as much as California in that period — without the Golden State’s restrictive mandates and high taxes. Governor Ron DeSantis and Speaker Chris Sprowls have prioritized these issues, and provided the infrastructure, policy, and personnel, including a chief climate resilience officer, to enable Florida’s leadership when it comes to environmental and climate goals.
Florida is not alone in this kind of success.
From 2007 to 2019, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions fell roughly 15 percent, while at the same time global emissions increased more than 20 percent. States such as Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Wyoming avoided top-down climate policies, and have reduced per capita energy-related CO2 emissions five times more than California.
Florida has a long history of cherishing our incomparable natural beauty. Our environmental laws are based on the concept of cooperative federalism, which includes a primary role for states in developing standards grounded in legislative accountability, which yield positive outcomes without raising costs, hurting the economy, or killing jobs.
We take all those priorities into consideration, because they are all essential to success.
Energy costs account for a sizable proportion of Americans’ regular expenses. We spend over $1.27 trillion per year on energy, and the lowest income households devote more than 20 percent of their after-tax income to residential utilities and motor fuel. With more folks staying home because of COVID-19, energy poverty has increased.
But long before we were blighted with the coronavirus, heavy-handed, top-down policies were making things worse, especially for those least able to afford it.
Renewable portfolio standards, for example, add double digit price increases to electricity bills, are an inefficient way to address greenhouse gas emissions, and exclude or penalize low- or no-carbon alternatives such as hydropower and nuclear.
The kind of red tape now being contemplated anew has added years of delay and millions of dollars of cost to infrastructure and energy projects, including renewables such as wind turbines, solar panels, and geothermal projects.
Innovation is the key to real progress, but grandfathered, two-tiered regulatory systems protect existing companies, and discourage the kind of competition that leads to modifications which can dramatically increase efficiency at existing power plants, factories, and small businesses.
Another threat to sound policy and affordable energy is local, California-style efforts to prohibit certain types of utility services, such as natural gas. Localized efforts create inconsistent regulation among cities and counties, making it tougher for both consumers and businesses to know all of the rules Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to restrict these local efforts to undermine new or existing energy infrastructure.
Do not buy the false choices. We can protect our state’s ratepayers, economy, and environment at the same time. But mandates — federal or local — are not the way to do it. State-led efforts and legislative accountability will result in better environmental outcomes at a much lower cost for all Floridians.
Lauren Melo represents the 80th district in the Florida House. Chris Hudson is vice president of government affairs at Americans for Prosperity and former state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida.