Make us your home page
Instagram

Amid gulf oil spill, Florida still looks in vain for a state energy policy

Once upon a time Florida went looking for an energy policy but got terribly lost along the way.

At first, we embraced abundant and cheap coal until the air started getting too polluted. We liked oil okay until prices spiked — as did the price of gas for cars — and we were told to be less dependent on foreign energy.

We recently fell back in love with nuclear power until the price of building plants started to triple in the blink of an eye, and the federal government gave up on a central storage place for all that nasty nuke waste. We embraced ethanol and even biomass (burning wood scraps or fast-growing plants) until our enthusiasm waned, and it became clear it really wasn't such an effective idea after all.

We grabbed on to solar but lost momentum after failing to support it with incentives. We never got serious about wind energy. We heard from Tally leaders how drilling off Florida's coastline was a necessary step in tough times — until BP blew it.

If only by default, we now pray natural gas will generate our electricity, at least for now, and hope its price does not skyrocket.

Then what? Amid this summer's record breaking heat, with electric bills gone wild and a still unstoppered BP oil spill wreaking environmental and economic havoc, when will we get it together with a real energy plan?

Watching energy policy debated in Tallahassee is like watching blindfolded legislators in bumper cars careening in circles. Whether Charlie Crist wins or loses his campaign for U.S. senator, his saddest legacy as governor may be his inability to persuade the Legislature to start making Florida a state with more diversified energy sources, and attracting those businesses to make it so.

Just over a month ago, Tampa's TECO Energy and a business called Energy 5.0 agreed to ditch their plans for a 25-megawatt solar photovoltaic generating station in Polk County. When Tallahassee fumbled a long anticipated mandate to diversify energy sources in the state, TECO and Energy 5.0 called off the deal.

Why are we so unable to think beyond the delivery of the next campaign contribution?

Energy 5.0 now focuses its solar work in states with real energy plans. It's a constant refrain, as Largo's Wayne D. Wallace, president of solar-power firm Solar Source, told the Tallahassee Democrat last week during a Clean Energy Congress event in the state capital. "Florida is just so far behind. We are actually doing more work outside of Florida than we do in Florida."

Compelling data emerged from the Clean Energy Congress. Florida Solar Energy Center director James Fenton indicated that by 2020 every household in Florida will pay $82 more a month for electricity than they do today. While electric power costs are climbing 4.7 percent a year, solar energy costs per kilowatt are heading down.

Tampa Bay's Susan Glickman, an alternative energy lobbyist who helped put the Clean Energy Congress together, says 29 other states already have clear energy policies. Those are the states attracting the specialized businesses to help them diversify their energy needs.

"Florida either wants to get in this game, or not," she says. "The window is closing."

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@sptimes.com

Amid gulf oil spill, Florida still looks in vain for a state energy policy 07/07/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 8, 2010 7:05am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]
  3. Pinellas licensing board loses support for staying independent

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board on Monday lost its strongest supporter for staying independent.

    State Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican running for governor, said Monday that he will no longer support any legislation to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board independent. This photo was taken in August. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO

    Corporate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Sherry Smith is taking over as CEO at Triad Retail Media, the company announced Monday. | [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]
  5. Two new condo projects for same street in downtown St. Pete

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — It lacks the panache and name recognition of Beach Drive, but 4th Avenue N in downtown St. Petersburg is becoming a condo row in its own right.

    Bezu, a condo project planned at 100 4th Ave. N in downtown St. Petersburg, will have 24 units including a three-level penthouse with infinity pool.
[Courtesy of Clear ph Design]