Category Archives: Miami

Backward Part 2

My recent post, Backward, received a number of responses that expressed shock (and anger) that state lawmakers would be trying to remove phrases such as “climate change” from existing laws or seek to effectively outlaw sustainable wind energy, amongst other backwards steps to Florida’s energy policy. Many readers asked what they can do to voice their concerns about the proposed law (Senate Bill 1624 and House Bill 1645) and I am going to share a few suggestions with you in response in just a moment.

First, though, allow me to share a link to another recent article, in this case from the Tampa Bay Times, about the House of Representatives version of the Bill (HB1645) I wrote about a few days ago. The article further details some of the horrible steps that the proposed new law will take and even quotes it’s sponsor, Representative Bobby Payne from Palatka, Florida. Representative Payne shares his reasoning for sponsoring the bill by explaining the United States has spent billions on a climate change initiative and ideology that is unfitting for our country.” During Committee deliberations he also explained his perspective that our country would not be where it is today without fossil fuels.”

Interestingly, during that same Committee discussion, the article explained, that another Representative (and a member of the same political party as the bill’s sponsor), Randy Fine from Palm Bay, voted against the bill that day because part of the draft wording would limit Florida utilities’ ability to sell electricity to citizens who charge electric vehicles at their homes. Mr. Fine, the article notes, owns two electric cars and rightfully explained that such cars are the way of the future much less increasingly already popular today.

The article also quotes the Florida House Speaker, Paul Renner from Palm Coast, who makes it pretty darn clear that responding to the impacts of climate change, such as increased flooding, is his goal rather than addressing the core causes of the problem such as fossil fuel use. I don’t think you should interpret anything we’re doing about maybe an obsolete program or whatnot as a lack of commitment to anything that’s happening in the environment. To the contrary … we’re not backing away one bit from being a resilient state and taking whatever the climate sends us.” It sure would be nice if Florida’s leadership would take interest in proactively addressing the causes of our climate crisis rather than boasting about waiting for what the “climate sends us” all the while protecting the state’s politically connected utilities’ polluting ways over our environment and future generations wellbeing.

To express your concern (outrage), please contact your Senator and Representative and let your voice be heard. It only takes a few minutes online and my experience is that elected officials take their constituents comments seriously. Here are the quick/easy steps to take (please note that the folks in the photos below are examples from :

1. You will want to determine your specific voting district for both the Florida Senate and House. Information regarding your district can be found on your voter registration card, as well as online.

2. You can determine your designated elected official in the House of Representatives here: www.myfloridahouse.gov/FindYourRepresentative.

3. Click the “Full Detail” Button.

4. Click “Contact Member.”

5. Email Representative (it is here you can express your specific concern about these bills or anything else).

6.You can locate your Florida Senator (and US Senator and Representative) here: www.flsenate.gov/Senators/Find.

7. You can email your Senator by selecting the “Email this Senator” button (it is here you can express your specific concern about these bills or anything else).

I’d also like to recommend reaching out to the current Speaker of the House, Paul Renner, and upcoming Speaker of the House, Daniel Perez. I have included their contact information below:

Paul Renner, 2022-2024 Speaker of the House
Capitol Phone: (850) 717-5019
Email: paul.Renner@myfloridahouse.gov
Capitol Address:
420 The Capitol
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300

Daniel Perez, 2024-2028 Speaker of the House
Capitol Phone: (850) 717-5116
Email: daniel.perez@myfloridahouse.gov
Capitol Address:
422 The Capitol
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300

My last suggestion is to never, ever think that your voice and vote does not matter.

In our Democracy both matter. A lot.

Not only do I encourage you to share your concerns about these current Bills or anything else that’s on your mind but to please vote in every single election as if our futures depend on it (because it does). And ask all of your friends and family to vote too.

2024 is a critically important election year, perhaps the most important election in our lifetimes, so please vote. And when you vote please consider politicians who are committed to working on the core causes of our climate crisis including the elimination of fossil fuel use in addition to the other issues important to you.

Together, we can make a difference and move our country forward in ways that help our environment and future generations.

Backward

Florida’s legislature is currently in session, and I am saddened to share that a group of legislators are enthusiastically taking steps to diminish efforts to solve our climate crisis and protect our ever so fragile state. The Legislature has filed a set of bills, House Bill (HB) 1645 and Senate Bill (SB) 1624, that are designed to take our energy system backward by overtly diminishing the reality that climate change is increasingly having on Florida while protecting Florida’s ever so powerful utilities’ desire to embrace their antiquated, polluting investments in energy distribution rather than our environment and its citizens. It’s enough to make me sick and is something I would encourage every citizen of our state to learn about immediately.

The good news is (or was) that in 2006 Florida’s legislature had the foresight to implement Statute § 366.92, the Florida Renewable Energy Policy, which mandated an increase in the use of renewable energy as well as a reduction on our state’s dependence on fossil fuels for electrical production. In the nearly two decades that followed that law’s passage, no one bothered to create rules or goals to achieve its mandate until a group of concerned youth from all over Florida filled a Petition for Rulemaking in 2022. That petition, which I helped lead, sought to establish the actual rules, goals, and other steps needed to help utilities embrace the 2006 laws mandates and transition towards sustainability. The effort, which you can read about here, concluded with the State of Florida’s Office of Energy, part of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, implementing Administrative Rule 5O-5: Renewable Energy. For the first time in our state’s history Rule 5O-5 established goals to help Florida’s energy system transition to becoming 100% renewable energy based over the next few decades.

The bad news is that Florida politicians have recently introduced a pair of shameful bills that are making their way through the House & Senate which aim to take the state’s pollution generating energy system backward in time by protecting the powerful utilities. If passed, these bills would eliminate phrases within the current law such as “greenhouse gases,” ban wind generated energy and overtly protect natural gas, a significant (methane) source of pollution that is helping warm our climate. Such environmentally damaging steps can’t possibly be dreamed up by the politicians themselves and are clearly bought and scripted by the utilities that seek to continue their polluting ways by protecting their investments and investors.

You can read about what our elected officials are doing right now to take Florida’s environment backward in the following article by Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida that appeared online in Florida Trend (the red highlights are my own) or by clicking here.

Lawmakers ready to overhaul state energy laws

Jim Saunders | News Service of Florida | 2/20/2024

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers are moving toward approving an overhaul of state energy laws, including eliminating references to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and imposing a ban on offshore wind-energy generation.

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a revised bill (SB 1624) that sponsor Jay Collins, R-Tampa, said is now in line with a measure (HB 1645) ready to go to the full House.

The bills address numerous issues, ranging from natural gas pipelines to calling for a study of using “advanced” nuclear power technologies. Perhaps bigger picture, they would ditch parts of state law about reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Collins said bill supporters are trying to “maintain our stability in the grid” and balance costs to taxpayers.

“There are things we’re taking off of the books. There are laws that we’re pulling out of there,” Collins told the Senate committee. “But it’s not because we don’t care about our environment. I think, if you look at what Florida’s doing, we do a very good job as stewards of our land, now and into the future. I think what it (the bill) does is it lets us look at this and do the things that actually have a functionable, repeatable benefit.”

But critics pointed to issues such as flooding caused by sea-level rise.

“I’m not sure how it became political to care about our environment,” Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, said. “Florida is ground zero for climate disasters. We are surrounded by water, and the effects are showing.”

As an example, part of current state law says, “The Legislature finds that the state’s energy security can be increased by lessening dependence on foreign oil; that the impacts of global climate change can be reduced through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; and that the implementation of alternative energy technologies can be a source of new jobs and employment opportunities for many Floridians.”

Under the bills, that section of law would be deleted, and partly replaced by sentences that say, “The purpose of the state’s energy policy is to ensure an adequate, reliable, and cost-effective supply of energy for the state in a manner that promotes the health and welfare of the public and economic growth. The Legislature intends that governance of the state’s energy policy be efficiently directed toward achieving this purpose.”

Florida utilities during the past two decades have become heavily dependent on natural gas to fuel power plants, while largely ending the use of dirtier-burning coal. At the same time, utilities have built numerous solar-energy facilities, as costs have decreased and technology has improved.

The bills address a series of issues related to natural gas. As an example, gas pipelines within Florida that are 15 miles or longer currently need certification under a law known as the Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Siting Act. Under the bills, the requirement would apply to pipelines 100 miles or longer.

Unlike some other parts of the country such as the Midwest, Florida does not rely on wind-generated power. But the bills would ban building or operating offshore wind turbines in Florida-controlled waters and on property within one mile of coastlines.

Collins said the proposed ban is designed to help protect wildlife and ecosystems and to prevent noise.

“Overall, the risk to our flora and fauna, our whales, the ecosystem around there, that’s concerning,” Collins said. “And then the tourism and noise aspect as well is also concerning.”

But Polsky and Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boca Raton, suggested the issue should be studied before a ban is imposed.

“We are stopping an industry,” Berman said. “We are supposedly the free state of Florida. It’s being done all along the Northeast (United States). They have wind turbines, and I haven’t seen any studies that (they) were causing (harm to) whales and extreme environmental damage in those areas.”

The Senate committee voted 6-3 to approve Collins’ bill, which needs to clear the Fiscal Policy Committee before it could go to the full Senate.

The future of Florida’s energy system must be powered by clean, sustainable power. Fossil fuel use, and that includes methane producing natural gas, must come to a sensible, well planned end over the next few decades. Taking the type of steps called for today in both SB 1624 and HB 1645 only serve to take Florida backward by embracing the pollution and polluters that are causing our climate to warm.

Good News. Bad News.

You’ve surely heard the phrase, “I have good news and bad news, which would you like first?” Growing up I always learned to get the bad out of the way first so as 2024 begins I have good news and bad news for you and, true to form, will start with the bad.

Bad News

As I have been predicting through much of last year, 2023 has now officially been anointed as the hottest year on record since global temperature records have been kept. It produced both the hottest summer on record in the Northern Hemisphere and the warmest winter on record in the Southern Hemisphere.

Simply leaving your home meant it was impossible to see a dramatic change in the weather and our climate. 25 disasters that struck the United States each caused over $1 billion in damage… a record. South California suffered its first tropical storm warning (in August) while Canadian wildfires turned New York City skies dark orange and sounded air quality alarms all over the East Coast as deadly tornadoes and devastating floods tortured the Midwest. And the weather-oriented disasters were not, of course, just limited to the United States. Tropical Cyclone Freddy was the longest cyclone in history and caused devastating flooding and landslides in many regions of Madagascar and Mozambique.

But nearly everywhere you went or lived last year the story was the heat. 2023’s global mean temperature was 1.48 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, a figure perilously close to the 1.5 degree aspirational goal in 2015 during the United Nation’s COP21, in what is known as the Paris Agreement. In 2023 mankind produced the hottest June ever recorded. Then the hottest July, followed by the hottest August, the hottest September, the hottest October, the hottest November, and, sadly, also the hottest December. Seven straight months that each broke heat records as compared to the entire recorded history of such records.

In fact, every single day in 2023 was at least 1 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial times (1850 to 1900) when fossil fuels became prevalent and have since lead to causing our climate to heat and heat. Worse yet (yes, the bad news seems to keep getting worse and will until we eliminate fossil fuels) is that two days, November 17th and 18th, were the first to measure 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Keeping temperatures within 1.5 degrees of pre-industrial levels is critical to mankind avoiding the worst impacts of our climate crisis but an increase that’s 2 degrees or higher will have simply devastating impacts all over earth.

Here’s how the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and a host of other scientific agencies all over the world documented the record setting temperature, records that shattered historic results by, as the WMO said, a “huge margin.”

NASA, NOAA, and a host of other climate experts are predicting that 2024 could very well break last year’s record and, for that matter, break through the 1.5 degree level. So, yeah, “Happy” New Year with that prediction. It’s time every one of us get serious about eliminating mankind’s use of fossil fuels before it’s truly too late.

Good News

As the new year starts all of the news, thankfully, is not bad. In fact, we start the new year with some incredibly great climate-oriented news here the United States. You see, 2023 saw the United States decrease (yes, you read that right, decrease) our fossil fuel pollution emissions by 1.9%, the largest decline since COVID19 led folks to stay inside, stop driving, working or traveling (and a time emissions declined an estimated 2.4%). Here’s a chart from the Rhodium Group that illustrates the correlation of results between economic growth (or decline) in recent years and green house gas emissions increase or decrease each year:

So, how did we actually reduce polluting emissions, much less do it in a year when the United States economy grew (+2.4%) robustly? Simply stated, coal use in the United States declined again last year and carbon emissions from coal, in turn, fell by 8%. And the warmer winter mentioned above led to emissions from things like natural gas, fuel, oil, and propane used to heat buildings to fall and polluting emissions from those fossil fuels fell by 4%.

Coal use continues to decline and that’s good news. In 2023 it’s estimated that just 17% of energy generated in the United States was derived from coal, the lowest such figure since 1969. Nuclear power, conversely, for the second year in a row moved ahead of coal as an American energy source.

Now, the news (sorry) here is not all good or great. Travel continuing to rebound meant that transportation emissions from airplanes increased 1.6%. Industrial emissions increased 1.2% as a result of an increase in oil and gas production.

While news of 2023’s record breaking temperatures should alarm all of us, the progress we are making by shifting away from coal shows that if mankind can muster the fortitude to eliminate fossil fuel use and shift to sustainable energy quickly we can, just maybe, avoid the worst impacts of our climate change crisis. But there’s not a day to wait.

For the United States to lead the world (as we should) towards fixing our climate crisis we need to reduce our polluting carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030, a goal that means we must triple our emission reductions each year over the next six years so there’s no time to waste.

Not even one day.

Happy 2024 everyone. Here’s to hoping it’s a wonderful year for you and your loved ones that is filled with great health and happiness.

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