Whether motivated by global warming or geopolitics, there is widespread support for diversifying our energy portfolio and becoming more efficient in our use of energy. However, efforts to accomplish these goals must be based on common sense.
Recently, Governor Crist issued a number of bold and well intentioned energy edicts. We should applaud Governor Crist's willingness to spend political capital tackling such an important issue. However the government mandates he has proposed will not only fail to achieve their desired result, they carry actual negative consequences.
One impact is an increase in the cost of utilities.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers recently examined what would happen if Congress mandated the kind of emissions caps that Gov. Crist is advocating for Florida. The team at MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change found that such caps would cause consumer utility bills to shoot up by some 25 percent to 50 percent in coal-burning regions, like Florida.
Other estimates indicate that Kyoto-like carbon caps could result in electricity bills that rise from the current 8-cent per kilowatt average now seen in the United States to the 25-cent kilowatt average which burdens families in Europe. The United Kingdom alone saw a 14-percent increase between 2005 and 2006. Floridians already are paying too much in taxes and insurance. The last thing we need is higher utility bills.
We laid out a common sense approach on energy almost a year ago in our book 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future (www.100ideas.org).
• First, make it a goal to lead the nation in ethanol production. This year we funded an effort at the University of Florida to demonstrate the commercial use of technology converting cellulose-plant material to ethanol for fuel -- an energy source that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. We should continue to invest in the development and implementation of new energy technology by encouraging our colleges and universities to become leaders in the research and development of these technologies.
• Second, work with Florida's agricultural industry to spur the development and efficient distribution of bio-fuels. This year we adopted our plan to create a Farm-to-Fuel grants program to fund bioenergy projects using agricultural products and plant material waste to produce an array of energy-related products including electricity and fuel.
• Third, provide tax incentives to encourage energy efficiency.
This year we passed a law to exempt from property taxes real property on which a renewable energy source -- like the solar panels now found in the Governor's Mansion -- are installed and operated.
Gov. Crist vetoed this incentive. I encourage him to reconsider and to support other similar measures in the future.
The potential to integrate greener approaches into the fabric of Florida's economy is unlimited, but we must be willing to embrace the free-market approach - not European-style big government mandates.
These common-sense measures would not only be good for the environment and consumers, they will actually spur economic development here in Florida. The creation of jobs and careers in Clean-Tech can be the next growth industry in the global economy, and Florida can lead the way.
Instead of adopting measures that will have little if any impact on our environment and make life in Florida more expensive, we need a strategy that encourages environmental conservation, fuel efficiency and energy diversity, while continuing to stimulate our economy.
Rep. Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, is the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.