June 10, 2009

Florida Moving Forward Profitably

From Florida, news of that state's efforts to transition to an energy independent future -- and how profitable it will be to the Sunshine state, in terms of jobs and economic development. Note that South Carolina has gone through the same planning process that Florida has gone through, but unlike Florida, South Carolina's legislators and utilities have yet to commit to doing anything substantial to reduce emissions and move the economy forward.

We know the old way of doing things has left us with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, and lower than average per capita income. Yet Santee Cooper remains bent on building a coal plant that will produce less then 100 jobs and export hundreds of millions of dollars of investment to other states and nations at the expense of our states substantial natural assets.
An E&E Publishing Service
STATES: Fla.'s climate policy would bring net economic benefits (Tuesday, June 9, 2009)

Annie Jia, E&E reporter

Climate change legislation under consideration in Florida could create 148,000 jobs and result in economic benefits of $38 billion by 2025, according to a new report.

The analysis, published last month by the nonprofit policy group Center for Climate Strategies, finds that the recommendations put forth by a governor's commission last year, if implemented, "would significantly benefit Florida's economy in the short and long term."

"Although the plan's focus is on Florida, its release is timely and important to the national dialogue on the fate of climate change solutions during these economically troubled times," said Steve Adams, a member of the governor's Energy and Climate Commission, at a briefing about lessons from state climate policies for federal policy last month.

"The authors believe climate action is not a costly policy package best postponed for better times, but the central and vital engine of economic recovery," Adams said.

Florida, which imports more than 90 percent of its energy from out of state, started looking at climate policy when Republican Gov. Charlie Crist issued three executive orders in 2007 that set standards for "greening" the government. Crist also established targets for the state's greenhouse gas emissions and directed various state agencies to begin regulation.

In 2008, Florida passed legislation that included a 10 percent biofuel mandate by the end of 2010 and authorized the state Department of Environmental Protection to start rulemaking for a cap-and-trade program to regulate emissions. Jeff Wennberg, the Florida project manager at the Center for Climate Strategies, called the legislation "one of the most ambitious energy and climate change bills any state has passed."

Under the latest round of recommendations put out in the Energy and Climate Change Action Plan, greenhouse gas emissions would drop to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The state would also cut six years' worth of petroleum, millions of tons of coal, and billions of tons of natural gas by 2025.

Eye on the economy

Tom Peterson, president and CEO of the Center for Climate Strategies, said the analysis is the most comprehensive economic study to date on Florida's climate policy.

Such economic analyses are not new. But Florida's is the first to look at the combined effect of cap and trade and sector-based policies, using both macro and microeconomic tools, Peterson said.

While other states have primarily taken a microeconomic approach -- showing the impacts that specific policies would have on the cost per ton of carbon, for example -- Florida's study looks at an inclusive array of impacts on jobs and income, by examining ripple effects like how household energy savings would result in greater purchasing and thus potentially stimulate manufacturing in the state.

Those who helped develop the plan -- a mix of government leaders, industry officials and environmental activists -- said they were not surprised by the promises of economic benefits. Economics was one of the explicit principles the team followed in selecting the policies, Wennberg said.

"They had to choose them in light of: Is this going to build the economy? Is this going to create jobs?" Wennberg said.

Environment and national security were the other main considerations. Jerry Karnas of the Environmental Defense Fund, who was part of the team, said different benefits from the policies appealed to different members of the team. In the end, the committee passed the 50 recommendations unanimously.

'Bold' but 'practical'

"It's a very ambitious product," Karnas said. "The governor wanted it to be bold, and it certainly ended up being bold, but also it was practical in many respects."

Utilities industry representatives who were involved in shaping the plan did not immediately return calls for comment, but Lonnie Ingram, a professor at the University of Florida who was also on the committee, said, "there seemed to be a pretty good consensus."

Peterson said that Florida's bill is similar to the federal bill moving through Congress, sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), in that both include cap-and-trade, sector-specific approaches, as well as clauses for economic transition and support.

"It captures the same set of issues that are very much the national issues that are related to the Waxman-Markey bill," he said.

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