Columns

Looks Like Exxon Mobil Is Out to Crush Florida's Energy Bill, Corleone-Style

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: April 12, 2012 3:55 AM
I Beg to Differ
It's like that scene from "The Godfather," when Don Corleone tells the undertaker Bonasera, "Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me."

A bit of Hollywood being replayed right here, right now, in the state capital.

The undertaker Bonasera is the Heartland Institute, with Americans for Prosperity in tow.

Don Corleone is Exxon Mobil. Big Oil. Maybe even the billionaire Koch Brothers who back AFP and make much of their money from oil.

He's the folks who bring us $3.80-a-gallon gas.

For more than 10 years, Exxon Mobil -- our Corleone Family -- has been infusing the Heartland Institute with cash "donations." More than $500,000 between 1998 and 2006 alone. Finally, in 2012, the Florida Legislature passes an energy bill, a clear threat to the interests of Big Oil, and all of a sudden it's payback time --  Bonasera/Heartland gets the dreaded call:

"Now, you owe your Don a service. He has no doubt that you will repay him. In one hour he will be at your funeral parlor to ask for your help. Be there to greet him."

Bonasera/Heartland showed up at the funeral parlor.

Now Heartland is in Tallahassee with a mostly well-intentioned tea party group hoodwinked into believing that HB 7117, the energy bill now before Gov. Rick Scott, is somehow going to "increase the cost to businesses and consumers."

It is not.

The service Heartland and AFP have been asked to perform for their Don is to "bring all of their skills and all of their talents together" to pressure the governor into vetoing a bill with the potential to be a real job creator, by providing a one-penny-per-kilowatt-hour credit for those companies that produce and sell alternative energy within the state.

This is how Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida, characterized the energy bill in a letter to the governor: "As an alternative to expensive and burdensome mandates enacted in other states, this approach is a thoughtful, reasonable, ratepayer-friendly way to encourage new energy production from the state's utility and non-utility energy producers."

Don Corleone knows it, too, but he ain't sayin'.

What Exxon Mobil isn't owning up to is its hypocrisy. While it's happy to have Heartland/AFP misinforming Floridians on the energy bill's tax credit program, it is desperately trying to stop Democrats in Congress from eliminating its own tax credits, worth $21 billion. And it should try to stop the Democratic plan. Fiscal conservatives almost unanimously have said eliminating the five tax credits, as the Dems propose -- one each for Exxon, Shell, ConocoPhilips, Chevron and BP -- will cost America tens of thousands of jobs.

So, why would Heartland/AFP, in a combined veto-seeking letter to the governor, write, "The vast taxpayer-funded subsidies that have been pursued at the state and federal level have done little to benefit the American economy ..." when its own Don knows firsthand that statement isn't true?

And why are opponents of the energy bill any different from House Speaker Harry Reid and the Democrats?

It's disappointing that Slade O'Brien, Florida director of Americans for Prosperity, would mislead so many good tea party folks.

It's disappointing, too, that nowhere along the way, when the Heartland Institute and Americans for Prosperity were trotting their dog and pony show through the state capital earlier in the week, did they bend over backward to disclose who their benefactors are and the obvious conflict of interest they pose.

That smell you detected in the air around the Capitol was eau de pétrole.

Ten little words wouldn't exactly constitute purification, but they would have earned the undertaker a little respect: It's true, Exxon Mobil gives us a lot of money.

Victoria Jackson, former "Saturday Night Live" comedian who calls herself "the tea party troubadour," proudly told me that nearly 3,000 people called the governor's office to demand he veto the energy bill. "That should do the trick," she said. I hope she isn't holding her breath. Some 8,000 calls flooded phone lines at the Capitol favoring the "parent trigger" bill and look what that accomplished.

(For a look at AFP comedian Victoria Jackson at Monday's "coalition" dog and pony show click here.)

There are few lawmakers in Florida, past or present, with more impressive conservative credentials than AIF's Feeney. Listen to what Feeney tells Scott in his letter of April 10: "Characterizations that this tax credit has any parallels with Solyndra or other failed initiatives of the federal government are completely false and misleading. This tax credit is only for energy delivered and is patterned after the federal production tax credit signed by several Republican administrations [emphasis mine]. We believe the bill will move Florida's economy forward and support your job creation agenda."

Signed by several Republican administrations, got that?

Now, I'm a big "Godfather" fan, and I'll bet you are, too. But it's a story best kept in books and movies. Modest as the energy bill is, it has been a long time coming. It involved the hard work of many people who genuinely want to help Florida take that first step to produce renewable energy. This re-enactment of the Mario Puzo classic in our state capital is unworthy of the original and unworthy of the Heartland Institute and the tea party faithful.



Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.



Comments (30)

Gee Whiz
4:03PM APR 16TH 2012
Could it be that most of this "content" came from a lobbying group?
Dud
10:16AM APR 14TH 2012
Kudos to the Florida Political Press and the Heartland Institute for kicking your backside on this worthless piece. Have you ever heard of research?
Jim B.
9:25AM APR 14TH 2012
Hey Nancy looks like you have been put in your place here. Go ahead and come out of your liberal closet of attacking big oil and the Koch brothers. Get in the camp of George Soros and Warren Buffet. You know you want to.

http :// www. floridapoliticalpress. com/2012/04/13/the-heartland-institute-responds-to-sunshine-state-news-hit-piece-on-energy-bill/

Allow for spaces.
Robert S.
10:18AM APR 14TH 2012
Great post Jim B. That column was the slap heard around Florida!
RC
1:59PM APR 13TH 2012
I am sorry, whenever government subsidizes we get misallocation of resources, this goes for oil companies as well.

The "once cent" subsidy of renewables amounts to a 10-20% subsidy. This is exactly what all the globalist socialist governments in the EU have done for the last year and it is close to taking down their economy and financial system.

There is also a back door carbon trading scheme built in in the trading of tax incentives. This bill might as well have been written by the Obama administration. This is folly and government has to stop. The price of solar panels has collapsed because we have too much capacity, why? Subsidies distorting the market. Most of the Ethanol industry is on the brink of collapse. why? Subsidies. Are we not satisfied with that? do we now have to create more massive failures by continuing to subsidize technologies that are not proven and not competitive with fossil fuels? All of based on the folly of "The Planet has a fever".
Stephen Hunter
12:56PM APR 13TH 2012
I would love to smell eau de petrole arounf the capital, it would be preferable to the smell of taxpayers dollars burning trying to make alternative energy competitive for fuel. I do not burn wind, or sunlight in the tank of my vehicle and most of the energy we use does not come from those either. The only way these alternative energies can become a factor in our energy alternatives is to subsidize them with tax dollars. they have the same opprtunity to become competitive alternatives as col and oil, and when they do we will switch over to them where they make sense, it is called the free market. Most of us do not particularily appreciated the government picking winners and losers as that is what communism is all about.
LDouglas
1:30PM APR 13TH 2012
All well and fine Stephen. But first fight to end the subsidies to coal, oil, and gas while taking into account the externalities of them before talking about competition.

After all, the price we pay at the pump for a gallon of gas or in our electric bill for a KW of coal powered electricity isn't the true price, or total cost. Much of it is hidden and borne by taxpayers, as well as by employers and individuals alike through their health insurance premiums.

(Oh, and to really fight communism, you should also work to end the gas tax that goes to roads and bridges and then privatize them. Who needs socialism/communism when capitalism is so much better for us... Let the cost for maintaining them come from only the cars and trucks that use them. That way, the market would decide which roads are winners or losers instead of the government, right? ;-))
Groscoe
10:17PM APR 12TH 2012
Hey all of you green lovers......Without oil this country comes to a complete stop.......are you aware 5 million barrels of oil are consumed every day for products other than fuel?......
LDouglas
6:56AM APR 13TH 2012
"Without oil this country comes to a complete stop...."

Exactly. Which is why using the same tax incentives oil has used for decades is right for alternatives to oil.

After all, oil is a finite resource and the more we drill, the sooner it will be gone. In the meantime, it only becomes more expensive to extract, as well as more expensive due to the law of supply and demand. (In case you haven't been paying attention, the world is growing in population the size of another entire United States every 4-5 years.)

Only the Fred Flintstone's of the world can't see the importance of developing viable alternatives if not to replace oil (a tall order) but to help reduce the demand.

Fred Flintstone types are those still living in the stone age. *Fossils still clinging to their fossil fuels.* Lol
Today they laugh at and put down those who dream we can develop greener alternatives to them. But last century they were the ones who laughed at and put down Edwin Drake as he brought up the first barrel of oil. Good thing there were dreamers and people who didn't let what seemed impossible stop them from trying for better or we'd still be using a washboard to wash our clothes and the horse for travel as well as communication. Among other things.)
Groscoe
10:12PM APR 12TH 2012
Is it a green energy bill that Putnam has been pushing that will drive prices higher?

It should not be approved........
Slade O'Brien
3:26PM APR 12TH 2012
LOL! Wow, You call this objective journalism. Do you have any idea where AIF's funding comes from? AIF is the largest lobbying firm in the state and represents the exact crony companies that will benefit from this bill! Is it their dollars that get most these politicians elected.

If we don’t need the tax credits to get these companies/industries to come here then take them out of the bill! That was all we asked during the session, but Nooooooo. So who do you think has been duped now?

This Bill is not about economic development, it is the exact opposite.. This Bill is about energy source diversification and favoring non-competitive green energy over cheap and abundant natural gas and coal of which we have more than a 100 year supply right here in the United States. This Bill will lead to higher energy costs for Florida consumers and business.

At a time when our Governor is knocking on doors trying to encourage businesses to move to Florida, this Bill sends a message to CEO’s and job creators all over the country that Florida will force your cost of production or service up in the marketplace, that State of Florida doesn’t care about your bottom line. It is the absolute wrong statement to send to the marketplace.

Furthermore it tells struggling Floridians we don’t care how high your energy bills go. We will even subsidize more expensive energy sources to set up shop here Florida consumer be damned.

That is what this bill does. Too bad you don’t have the intellectual honesty to tell be the truth.

I’m all for any kind of energy production including green as long as it can compete on the open market.

Last but not least, those of you who claim that I have duped the Tea Party are certainly an self righteous and arrogant lot. Do you really give these Patriots so little credit as to believe they cannot think for themselves. They are in the Tea Party because they are so sick and tired of hearing the drivel that comes out of the media and the cowardly politicians that cave to a false narrative. The fact of the matter is they don’t believe Gov’t should be involved is picking winners and losers in the marketplace and I didn’t have to convince single soul of that fact. All I did was provide them a vehicle to let their voice be heard.
Richard Thomas
1:51PM APR 13TH 2012
Nancy Smith never called herself an "objective" journalist so you should apologize. That is an insult to journalism.
Professor Industrial Megawatt
5:00PM APR 12TH 2012
You don't have any idea what you are talking about, Mr. O'Brien. Many electric co-generators considered "renewable" sell power to utilities at prices that are far below normal electric rates. Pulp mills, biomass cogenators, garbage burners, landfill gas operators. Every megawatt of power they put on electric system saves money on electric bills because its sold at very low wholesale rates - this is what Florida will get more of. This isnt about expensive solar. There isnt a solar company in the world that is going to build a plant to get a one cent credit when the cost is probably more than 30-40 cents.

You are just plain uneducated on the facts. Shame on you for using the tea party name to spread such disinformation about a very good bill without even making any attempt to learn the facts.

One founding mantra of the tea party was READ THE BILL. Well, READ THE BILL.
Slade O'Brien
5:25PM APR 12TH 2012
so please explain the need for tax credits and subsidies for these lovely profitable business to make a bee line for our state. All we asked was to take the tax credits out of the bill. If they are not needed then why are they in the bill......cronyism!
Frank
8:48PM APR 12TH 2012
Let me get this right - you're AGAINST renewable green energy tax credits & subsidies (i.e. not market driven; picking the winners, etc.) but you SUPPORT the Governor's "relocate your business" tax credits and subsidies. The Governor's incentives help take take $1 Billion from our universities that are part of the very quality of life reason that high tech businesses want to relocate!

Where's your outrage at that? Hypocrisy, Slade, hypocrisy.
Slade O'Brien
3:20PM APR 13TH 2012
I am against gov't picking winners and losers in the market place period!
regardless of company, industry or relationship. What i support is a 0% Corp Tax Rate for Florida.
Frank
7:53PM APR 15TH 2012
Ok, then where's your outrage articles about the business incentive legislation, and your calls for vetoes? Why are we subsidizing for-profit businesses at all (unless for a social "good" like green power or affordable housing, but I realize you don't believe in doing that - that's all socialism).

Ok, 0% on corporate entities so they can use all that extra money to warp our political system thanks to Citizens United, with you picking up all those lost revenue sources out of your own pocket, correct (rather than the rest of us), or do you just believe in no taxes and no government? Just trying to understand how removed from reality you really are.
Orange
9:18PM APR 12TH 2012
Isnt Mr. O'Brien related to Tom Slade? He can't carry Tom Slade's jockstrap. Pitiful.
Slade O'Brien
3:30PM APR 13TH 2012
Orange: Aren't we quite the man, typing insults behind a keyboard under and assumed color. Classic!

For the record Tom is my uncle. See I have nothing to hide.
Professor Industrial Megawatt
5:44PM APR 12TH 2012
They aren't profitable because unlike what you so confidently asserted in your essay, Florida's rules that govern electric utilities do not allow for these ventures to be priced at market prices. In order to get a price comparable to that sold by a utility, one needs a free market, which doesn't exist in Florida. Florida has a long history being a state governing regulated monopolies. It gives exclusive rights to these utility companies and they set the wholesale price of the market by suppressing it with various gizmos at the Public Service Commission. Stop acting like there is a free market in Florida. There isnt. The Public Service Commission openly advocates against competition and deregulation because of this holy grail called The Regulatory Compact.
Tallahassee Lassie
8:52PM APR 12TH 2012
Wow. I have learned a lot reading this story. I appreciate all the contributions. I must say the professor here has my vote. Not that it matters.
BM
5:14PM APR 12TH 2012
Well put professor!
BM
4:00PM APR 12TH 2012
The last paragraph pretty much says it all. Not one time did you include yourself as part of the movement. You used the term "they" instead of "we" and "I".

Like I said Nancy and those in the Tea Party movement, you really need to research these people who claim to part of the movement. Some are part of the movement only as long as the money lasts.
Slade O'Brien
5:20PM APR 12TH 2012
You should actually check your facts BM. I was part of the limited gov't, pro liberty, free market movement before the tea party even existed. 1998-2002 State Director Citizens for a Sound Economy 2002-2004 Executive Director Citizens against Lawsuit Abuse. I've been at this a long time BM. Since I don 't know who you are BM why don't you give us your name and tell us what role you have played in the movement.
Slade O'Brien
5:20PM APR 12TH 2012
You should actually check your facts BM. I was part of the limited gov't, pro liberty, free market movement before the tea party even existed. 1998-2002 State Director Citizens for a Sound Economy 2002-2004 Executive Director Citizens against Lawsuit Abuse. I've been at this a long time BM. Since I don 't know who you are BM why don't you give us your name and tell us what role you have played in the movement.
Shortstuff
2:00PM APR 12TH 2012
These Tea Parties are a complete sham. They are paying people to have these opinions. I've been a member of the tea party in Panama City Beach for 2 years and we have NEVER talked ill of a tax credit.
Republican Mike
10:52AM APR 12TH 2012
This is absolutely rich. Exxon and Shell are fighting a measly state tax break (ie tax cut), while they enjoy tens of billions in tax breaks a year from the Federal governmnet. I actually support their tax breaks, and support these tax breaks. What timing though as a 10 mile oil spill is found in the gulf today.

Great article. Well timed. And thanks for blowing the lid off of this "shell" organizations, Nancy. Seriously, if anyone watched that youtube where Victoria Jackson rambeld on like a Baker Acted homeless person, they would laugh at this entire effort.
BM
6:57AM APR 12TH 2012
Nancy, I think this time I am going to say enough to tick you and pretty much everyone else off. Let's start with everyone else first.

Slade O'Brien is a fake, a phoney, but he has money. Someone else's money. Do some research on the guy. All of his life he has been the bagman for someone, group or thing. A former consultant (lobbyist) for such grass roots groups as the RPOF. He raised money, even had his own company to do it.

Now O'Brien has done some that really upsets me. He has purchased the tea party. Yeah I will say it. He is "buying" leaders from all over the state at about $3,000.00 per month plus expenses until the end of November. When those "leaders" sign on that dotted line they cease to become leaders, they are employees and will behave as such. He thinks in his own perverted way that will make him a leader.

Now for you dear Nancy. Please do not play the virturous one here. This very site has run ads for the green energy concept. Your offices are just around the corner for Assoiciated Industries of Florida. Now doubt you all meet for drinks at the Governor's Club after work, or maybe during lunch.

The point here is that most of the people out there can read. They realize when their tax dollars are subsidizing businesses and they don't like it. They realize we are cutting funding to their county clerks, schools, police, fire, colleges etc. etc. etc. and they just do not believe it is right to throw good money after bad.

I realize that this bill has nothing to do with Solandra or the other half dozen other solar manufactuers out there. That is not the point. The point is why should I or anyone else give tax breaks to someone who can afford to spend thousands on alternative energy for their homes?

So Nancy let's look at it this way. Taxpayers have subsidized the Chevy Volt to the tune of billions. The thing looks great. However, it's performance sucks. It does not do what it is suppose to do. Neither will this bill. I don't care if Exxon gave money to Heartland, I don't care if Kochs gave money to AFP. I read this bill and it stinks.

Oh and one more thing Nancy. Stop carrying the water for the liberals when you talk about tax breaks for Big Bad Oil. If you did not work for SNN but instead owned a corporation that had stockholders, paid dividens, invested hundreds of millions in upgrades and research, employing tens of thousands of dollars then you too could take advantage of every "legal" deduction on your taxes. Until then you are just a chump like me. Have a nice day.
LDouglas
8:25AM APR 12TH 2012
"Stop carrying the water for the liberals when you talk about tax breaks for Big Bad Oil."

Lol. You should stop carrying the water for the Fred Flintstone's of the world when you talk out against tax breaks for alternative energy while making the case for them for fossil fuels, lest you look like a hypocrite.

And shortsighted. After all, the fossil fuel industry is doing fine on it's own and to continue tax breaks for them while denying them to alternatives goes against free market principles.
LDouglas
8:20AM APR 12TH 2012
"The point is why should I or anyone else give tax breaks to someone who can afford to spend thousands on alternative energy for their homes?"

Thats a narrow focus of the bill but one answer is because we can either chip in to reduce demand for mainstream energy or continue to chip in to build more mainstream powerplants. (Right now FPL charges us about $6 a month to build new nuclear plants in the future and are asking for another $5+ to build natural gas plants.)

IMO, it's much better to chip in for even those who can afford alternative energy for their homes for a few reasons. It helps improve the technology and will eventually lower the costs for the rest of us. It leaves money to circulate in the local economy rather than be spent (burnt) on fossil fuels or sent to the bank accounts of investors across the country. It doesn't increase demand for fossil fuels adding to their prices. Not to mention fossil fuels are finite resources and will only get more expensive over time. And powerplants that run on fossil fuels require lots of water (another finite commodity that will get more expensive over time).

Anyway, it's hard enough competing in a global economy, the cheaper our cost of living, the better it will be for all of us.

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