The invasion of Normandy by Allied forces took planning, collaboration and sacrifice. We will need no less if our state and country are serious about reducing our dependence on oil from politically unstable countries — energy that pollutes our air and water.
The lesson for Floridians from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill now advancing toward our sparkling beaches and marine habitats must be the same. We must ask, "What can we do so this never happens again?"
Broad and decisive action, like that taken on the shores of Normandy so many years ago, is what we need on the beaches of Florida right now. The problem is simple: America is the world's energy hog, and Florida has one of the highest residential electricity usage rates per capita in the country. We also have more registered cars per capita than any other state. Americans use 25 percent of the world's oil when we only have 3 percent of the oil reserves.
There are a host of reasons to want to end our reliance on oil. Perhaps most important, our oil dependence has put America's security at stake as our young men and women are in harm's way overseas. Our economy is dependent on OPEC and some of the world's most politically unstable countries, many hostile to the United States.
Why hasn't the Florida Legislature passed a target for renewable energy? Partisanship and the influence of special interest money from the oil companies and other industries that pollute at the public's expense seem to win out over common sense year after year. For the past two years, laws to create critical renewable energy policies were held hostage by legislative leaders as they focused instead on lifting the ban on drilling close to our shore.
Thirty other states have passed targets for renewable energy and are seeing tens of thousands of new jobs from emerging businesses, helping their economies weather the storm of the recession. Where are we? Stalled on the sidelines.
With our sun and biomass resources, Florida should be on the cutting edge of renewable energy. With one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, we can't afford delay. A target for renewables will create new jobs, reduce emissions in our air and, importantly, provide real national security as we reduce our dependence on hostile, oil-producing countries.
Can we learn from this environmental and economic catastrophe and turn it into something positive? Maybe our beaches, like Normandy's, can become known as a turning point to finding a way to depend on energy sources that will not leave our armed forces in danger, or our beaches and environment despoiled for future generations.
The governor's Climate Team made a number of good recommendations in 2008; now it's time to translate some of these into law. While climate change has always been urgent, there was no real emergency to force action.
But that time has come. If there is a silver lining to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it should be as a rallying point for real change. Our beaches could be the equivalent of Normandy in this environmental war, the foothold upon which success is finally built.
Winston Churchill's famously said, "Never give up." Floridians, we must not give up either. In this pivotal election year, it is time for us to speak out and tell our future leaders we want Florida to join those states that are positioned to take advantage of the jobs and alternate energy sources to help keep America safe, and our shores clean.
Visit www.TheFloridaVoter.org to find your representatives and take action. Make sure your registration is up to date and get informed for Florida's 2010 elections.
Deirdre Macnab is president of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Florida.