With the much-anticipated energy bill sitting on Gov. Rick Scotts desk pending approval, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said opposition to his legislation, which includes a coalition of Florida tea party groups, is rooted in a lack of good information.
Putnam defended the first comprehensive energy plan in the state since 2007 as one that replaces alternative-energy mandates with market-driven incentives while playing up Floridas natural competitive advantages.
Were relying on the market to make decisions in this legislation, not picking winners and losers, Putnam told reporters. We are technology agnostic. We are not saying solar is better or biomass is better or wind is better. Were saying if you spend real capital and put real bricks and mortar in the ground, and hire people, and actually are producing either renewable fuel or electricity, then you are eligible for a tax credit. It is not an upfront subsidy.
It is only after you have spent significant amounts of private capital that you have some tax credit for that renewable technology, whatever that technology may be, Putnam added. You have to prove to the marketplace that it will be successful and then you have to demonstrate it to be eligible for that credit.
The credit would equal about 1 penny per kilowatt hour produced.
Last month a coalition of 86 tea party groups around Florida called on Gov. Rick Scott to veto four bills passed by the 2012 Legislature, including the splitting of University of South Florida-Polytechnic in Lakeland into a 12th state university, and Putnams energy bill.
In opposing the energy bill, HB 7117, the coalition declared: "We do not believe the government should be determining the marketplace for renewable-energy projects. This bill extends $16 million in renewable-energy tax credits, creates separate rules for electric vehicle recharging stations and mandates studies of the resources available to produce biomass energy."
On Thursday, the conservative Americans for Prosperitys Florida chapter claimed the bill was the state picking "winners and losers" and announced it is also lobbying Scott to veto the energy bill.
This misguided political ideology of picking winners and losers in the marketplace will undoubtedly continue its pattern of wasting taxpayer money by bankrolling politically-favored energy companies, AFP-FLs State Director Slade OBrien stated in a release.
It leads to crony capitalism and crony politics. We certainly dont need a Solyndra-type boondoggle here in Florida. Subsidizing renewable-energy production will not only distort the marketplace but will actually drive the cost of energy up and undermine Floridas rebounding economy.
Putnams energy bill, considered more realistic than prior efforts, would expand renewable-energy production tax credits and allow local governments to use discretionary sales tax revenue to assist homeowners who make energy-efficiency improvements.
The legislation also streamlines the permitting process for bio-fuel feedstock crops and allows retail dealers to sell unblended gasoline, which is desired by the boating industry.
The bill, mediated in both chambers, is the first comprehensive energy plan to be approved by the Legislature since former Gov. Charlie Crist introduced a plan in 2007 that called for sweeping reforms. Many of Crists proposals have since remained dormant or required repeal.
Scott has until April 14 to act on the bill.
Reach Jim Turner at email@example.com or at (772) 215-9889.