Nobody Greases the Political Machine Quite Like Big Power
Around the State
Few spectacles these past two months have been as nauseating as Big Power’s goose-stepping march through the Florida Legislature.
Actually, I've known whole countries that put up a lustier fight against the enemy than this group of grasping lawmakers did to protect Florida's long-suffering energy consumers.
So, here they are, the victors -- Florida Power & Light Co., Progress Energy and Tampa Electric -- hours away from proving you can buy almost anything in an election year at the Capitol. All you need are enough lobbyists, a good gimmick, a slick PR team, an absence of scruples in high places ... and, oh yes, a few million dollars to toss into those campaign coffers.
What FPL and their two friends win is carte blanche.
They win escape from regulatory oversight.
They win permission to reject more efficient, more cost-effective energy generators like biomass, which cranks out power in Florida at 7.4 cents per kilowatt hour, and to build instead solar energy plants -- gimmicks in comparison -- which generate electricity around at least 26 cents a kilowatt hour, nearly 4 times as much as biomass. Never mind that FPL's three operating solar plants cost nearly $700 million. Doesn't matter when ratepayers are picking up the tab.
They win an invitation to charge their customers the full cost of construction -- $376 million to cover the 3-year plan -- and then to charge more money for the extra energy.
I would like to think better of Florida lawmakers, but at this moment I can't.
I can't because I watched FPL unleash lobbyists on legislators to get two governor-recommended appointees to the PSC, Ben Stevens and David Klement, turned down. The vote wasn't about partisanship. It wasn't about who likes or doesn't like Charlie Crist. It was all about the kind of pressure a Big Anything applies when it shows up at your office willing to make a campaign donation.
What I see in front of me are records of Big Power's campaign donations to political parties -- $2.3 million in the last 15 months. Nearly $1 million from FPL alone. Goodness gracious. These numbers -- which, by the way, don't even include donations to individual candidates -- make Big Power second only to the health industry in "campaign gifting."
Think about this today if you have the stomach for it, when the Senate cheerfully stamps its seal of approval on HB 7229. It won't represent the 2010 Legislature's finest hour.
Reach Executive Editor Nancy Smith at email@example.com, or at (850) 583-1823.