Repeal of Renewable Energy Goals Killing Jobs in Florida

By: Michael Dobson | Posted: August 18, 2012 8:00 PM
Michael Dobson

Michael Dobson

In the Sunshine State, where we lag behind most other states in renewable energy industry job creation, we still do not have a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) policy like the 30-plus states creating new jobs. 

At the just-concluded Florida Energy Summit, hosted by the Florida Department of Agriculture, as unemployment in Florida ticked up to 8.8 percent -- still no commitment.

Perhaps this should not be any surprise. After all, this summit came after a 2012 Florida legislative session that all but dismantled renewable energy in the Sunshine State. And, in the lead-up to the summit in a far-reaching Florida Trend interview of Commissioner Adam Putnam, there is a sense that he and other policymakers may be doubling down.

There were early-warning signs from Commissioner Putnam, who now directs Florida’s energy policy. In the fall of 2011, he warned that renewable energy policy would take a walk back in Florida. He knew because (after all), he held all of the cards. As a side, after serving in the Florida House in the '90s and being the No. 3 Republican within the GOP caucus in the U.S. Congress just a few years ago, he is perhaps the most experienced politician in Tallahassee, where we now have eight-year term limits on a legislator's experience.

Some would argue that Putnam holds enough political clout and power to accomplish just about anything he wants in the Capitol, including implementing the RPS language placed in state statutes a few years ago. The opposite was chosen. At this year's summit, the best we could get was a commitment to "continue the conversation on energy."

Two critical policy items that were the cornerstones of the Charlie Crist administration's efforts to have Florida be a leader in renewable energy were repealed in the 2012 Legislature. The repeals have left Florida with essentially no renewable energy policy or with no hopes of one, except for tax incentives that benefited only a few.

During debates in the 2012 session, some renewable energy lobbyists were even convinced that they should not oppose the repeals and support the bill instead, a bill that may be the death knell to their own industry. They believed that their support would commit the commissioner to fixing it later, some sheepishly say ... when Commissioner Putnam is governor.

Additionally, legislators who would have normally opposed the repeal of the statutory RPS language and measures in place to step up efforts to reduce carbon emissions voted in favor of the repeal legislation.

What did the main boosters of the effort get? They got to run a victory lap. The got to say that Florida has finally passed a modest comprehensive energy bill, and with bipartisan support. So, case closed ... renewable energy set and match.

But there is a sobering truth with the bill's passage. That truth is that all momentum toward an energy-independent Florida was repealed in one fell swoop. Experienced lobbyists know that lauding the eventual bipartisan passage of a long-fought effort is simply code for "the issue will never see the light of day again." But, for reasons not quite understood, many renewable energy lobbyists were snookered. Some of us spoke out and said as much, but were seen as outsiders.

A more disturbing reality is that by eliminating policies that were being put in place and sending signals of disinterest to clean-energy businesses, Florida has lost jobs and investments in our economy. Investors now know unequivocally of Florida’s disinterest in renewable energy and have acted in kind. They are not flocking to fund Florida renewable energy entrepreneurs because they see no sign that the state is committed to sustaining the industry.

Additionally, companies have either left Florida to do business elsewhere, severely cut back and/or laid off workers, filed for bankruptcy protection, closed shop or in some cases decided to do business in other countries or in other U.S. territories. Why? Because there is no long-term policy commitment from the Legislature. Some have even sought bankruptcy protection, while others have shut their doors. Not because the market has spoken, but because policymakers have failed to provide the renewable energy industry the same or similar level of support it has given nuclear, coal and fossil fuels. It has failed to provide a level playing field.

It's way past time to place Florida in the lead for green job creation, and stop training a 21st century work force that can't find work here.


Michael Dobson is a longtime Tallahassee-based lobbyist and columnist, managing member of Dobson, Craig and Associates and founder/ CEO of Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association.

Comments (11)

10:27AM AUG 20TH 2012
Another thing: Saying that Obama policies to increase renewable energy is failed policy is an outright lie.

New Planet Energy near Vero Beach has received $60 million from the government as a loan to produce transportation fuel and electricity from landfill. They will employ many people in Florida and recycle our waste to make us more independent. Ask FPL how many jobs it has created with its stimulus dollars. Ask almost every Republican in washington how many jobs they have provided in their community because of Obama green energy stimulus. Notice, they only admit to it when they have been outed by the media in the midst of their politically motivated stimulus bashing.

In the early 1900's there were over 500 auto manufactures. tTen there was the big three. Because a few entrepreneurs failed, does that mean we should not have invested in the infrastructure to create the industry we now have and the transportation infrastructure that is the envy of the world? Anyone that knows about emerging markets, know that there will be failures. America was built on such failures as we have always been innovators. Do you think the internet exist without collousal failures which were funded by the government . If so, you are a moron or a denier of facts for political reasons. Oh, but the rules are different for renewables.. huh.

Solyndra was not a renewable energy generating company. It was a manufacturer of new technology. Manufacturing startups of new technology fail all the time for various reasons. Any tech start up person knows that. But, these guys keep trying anyway and their guts have led our country to greatness. And yes, the government should invest in new technologies that can help our country lead and yes, some will fail as they always have for 100 year or more. The government has always been partners even in those failures because it is in the countrys best interest that we lead. And yes, take chances. Its the American way.
Lets at least be principaled and honest in your arguments
9:55AM AUG 20TH 2012

If we are going to have these discussions, lets do it with the facts. You guys seem to believe that all you need to do is mouth partisan ideaology as if its factual and its okay. In honesty it is unAmerican for you and your ilk to try to solve our important problems that way and a disservice to citizens.

First, what is your definition of socialist. Is it socialist for governments to allow for a regulated industry such as utilities with quaranteed profit and protect from competition? Is it socialist for fossiel fuel t be subsidized to the tune of $557 billion globally in 2008 alone.

Lets be honest. Government picks winners and losers all the time. That is what lobbyist are for. What you are saying is nonesense and simply purpetuating lies.

In June 2010, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said $557 billion was spent to subsidize fossil fuels globally in 2008, compared to $43 billion in support of renewable energy. In a July 2011 EIA report on federal fossil fuel subsidies, coal was estimated to have tax expenditures (provisions in the federal tax code that reduce the tax liability of firms) with an estimated value of $561 million in FY 2010, down from $3.3 billion in FY 2007.[2]

See the links below for the facts. Or, will you simply not let the truth and the facts get in your way.

I cant post links here, the system will not allow it. But, if you simply google "fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies". The facts are there.
9:00AM AUG 20TH 2012
Florida is trying to back away from Socialist preferences in energy policy. after seeing the massive failures of these policies implemented by the Obama administration, it is clearly the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, last years energy bill, submitted by Putnam, did not eliminate the practice of government picking winners and tried to legitimize the practice while retaining some portions of the practice but reducing it in scope. This too will fail and maybe, just maybe we can drive a stake through the heart of the whole "green enregy" from of Socialism forever before it bankrupts the U.S. like Europe.
12:59PM AUG 20TH 2012
Try to read both of mickey's comments and then see if you can tell us how subsiidizing green energy is socialist while subsidizing fossil fuels isn't- lest you be considered just another Fred Flintstone. (You know, someone stuck in the Stone Age. :-))
7:11AM AUG 20TH 2012
"Not because the market has spoken, but because policymakers have failed to provide the renewable energy industry the same or similar level of support it has given nuclear, coal and fossil fuels. It has failed to provide a level playing field."

Continuing to support subsidies for established finite sources of energy like nuclear, coal, and fossil fuels as well as turning a blind eye to all the external costs they lay on the taxpayers lap, as well as the cost to human health while vocalizing opposition to subsidies to develop renewable sources energy is one of the several things I can't understand about many Republicans, Tea Party supporters, and free market types.

That's neither conservative, nor free market. That's just crony capitalism on their terms, if not just plain being a Fred Flintstone (you know, still living in the stone age).

Otherwise, thank you SSN for posting this. Our politicians should know they aren't fooling everybody with their "we need to do it all" energy policy while undermining and dissing renewable energy. (And that when the fossil fuels are gone and if we don't have enough viable alternatives we'll make sure the generations left holding the bag know who is responsible.)
10:48AM AUG 19TH 2012
Florida has the best energy policy money can buy. NO ONE can afford to pay more than Florida Power. Ahhh..the power company...the last real tyranny in America. But all the tea party can see is the fringe.....
if any of the naysayers spent 1 week in the tech industry they would quickly realize that alot of the stimulus money is the reason solar panels have dropped in price by nearly 80% in the last 18 months. IN the beginning the taxpayers subsidized Standard Oil with monopoly status...exactly what they are doing for Florida up the market and you would see job creation like you've never seen it before because Fla has lots of sun.......or you could let FPL build another nuke and charge you 15bil....
7:20AM AUG 20TH 2012
I've always thought if current electric customers have to chip in for additional sources of energy to meet the needs of future customers, instead of our money going to build expensive powerplants that have to make a profit quarter after quarter that will go sit in the bank accounts of some remote investors, how much better it would be for us if we used that money for rooftop solar to meet those needs.

That way, instead of sending thousands and thousands of dollars out of our local economy every month for operating expenses and profits, the money saved could stay and circulate in the local economy. Win-win-win....
11:39PM AUG 18TH 2012
Yes, Rick Scott, job killer.

Be it high-speed rail jobs, renewable energy jobs, teaching jobs, prison jobs, government and water management district jobs, Rick Scott will find a way to take this state into job killing.

But he, like Ted Yoho, is a firm believer in Agenda 21 conspiracy theory. That conspiracy centers around the UN taking over the US through the implementation of policies and programs such as Renewable Energy, Sustainable Development and Smart Growth. Hence, the tearing apart of Florida's growth management programs, the demonization of high-speed rail and mass transit, and the repeal of Crist's energy program. All actions against the best interests of Florida and its citizens, but quite in line with the anti-government at-all-costs Tea Party lunacy that believes the UN is taking over the US.

PATHETIC. . . . . and dangerous to Florida's well-being.
Franklin Thompson
9:43AM AUG 19TH 2012
"Be it high-speed rail jobs, renewable energy jobs, teaching jobs, prison jobs, government and water management district jobs..."

As usual, everything you describe requires that the taxpayer be fleeced. Taxes to do the jobs you describe come from one source; private employment. Government redistribution of private employment wealth, to create more government largess is not 'sustainable'.

As for your comment on the UN, research Ottmar Edenhoffer's speech to the UN on global warming and what is really behind [that] fleecing operation.
1:40PM AUG 19TH 2012
Teaching jobs fleece the taxpayer?
Firefighting jobs fleece the taxpayer?
Police and prison officers fleece the taxpayers?
Protecting the environment and ensuring that you have water resources available for water supplies fleece the taxpayer?

How about you provide all that yourself - we'll just send you to one of the few places in the world with enough lack of government so that you can do that all by yourself - Somalia. You don't belong in a civilized society, let's send you where your desire for anarchy can be found.

And, as to that climate change bashing you want to do, well, I'm a scientist with some knowledge of the science in that area, and a National Science Foundation grant that I'm working on in the area of climate change. Want to have that debate? We can start with the four southeasternmost counties in Florida and discuss the science and projections regarding sea-level rise, unless, of course, you want to somehow just deny it all . . . . . and that it'll all just go away.

On both accounts, pathetic.
10:52AM AUG 19TH 2012
Hey Franklin.....lets dig a big hole on the beach...big enough for about 6 million people...then we can all go stick our head in it and maybe the problem will go least it wont take any taxpayer money...

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