Offshore drilling ban or not, real need is for a state policy to broaden energy sources
Wake up and good morning. Today's front page headlines in Florida newspapers focus on Gov. Charlie Crist's decision to call a special legislative session this month to try and ban on offshore drilling near Florida. That's all well and good -- an emotional topic and a political ploy -- but the real energy news took place in Orlando where a clean energy summit tackled ways to get Florida back on track with a diversified energy policy. (AP photo: Oil booms in rough waters off Louisiana.)
Florida sorely lacks an energy policy, which has made it so easy for big utilities to push "voluntary" efforts to push into alternative energy sources like solar or biomass. The result, of course, is Florida's doing very little these days in cleaner alternative energy while we eat other states' dust. How absurd that Texas -- the capital of the oil industry -- is way, way ahead of Florida in new energy sources from wind to solar. Here's a column on how Neanderthal we've become on our energy future in Florida.
The most hopeful front on energy is an apparent willingness by Florida Senate president-designate Mike Haridopolos -- we'll see how committed he really is -- to finally stop muttering "drill, baby, drill" and consider a broader strategy to insure energy for this state int he coming years. As the Merritt Island Republican told an Orlando forum Thursday hosted by Citizens for Clean Energy, a non-profit consortium of green-leaning businesses:
"The Legislature is open for business and new ideas. We need an aggressive energy policy -- an all-energy solution that works for Floridians first. We've relied too long on tourism, agriculture and growth."
That's not exactly a wholesale endorsement of alternative energy, but word is from the forum that Haridopolos ate some humble pie and acknowledged his earlier push for offshore drilling is just out of touch with Florida's energy future. Besides, the folks lobbying for solar and other energy sources have smartened up, and now argue more forcefully there is an entire clean energy industry with 40,000 jobs for Florida -- if state political leaders can get their act together and fashion an energy policy that keeps Florida competitive with other states.
Bottom line? The special session is a feel good moment to ban offshore drilling that probably won't happen because Republican legislators now oppose anything Crist endorses. Watch instead for some movement on a broader energy policy. If it does not happen, we're in deep doodoo in the Sunshine State.
Here's more coverage from the Orlando forum.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist