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Citizens Lobby for a Clean Energy Economy

Orlando — Florida's legislators, confronted by record high unemployment rates and shrinking budgets, are eager to take on the task of creating jobs as they convene this election-year session. With the 60-day lawmaking session well under way, dozens of citizens flocked to the capitol last week in an attempt to sway legislators toward a clean energy economy. One of the citizen lobbyists, Andre Uribe, vice president of Power Grid Engineering, stated that “A government mandate on renewable energy would create hundreds of jobs for unemployed Floridians.

Florida is uniquely positioned to be on the leading edge of this industry. More than 75 percent of renewable-energy jobs fall in the manufacturing and construction trades — two of the largest industries struggling with historically high unemployment rates. Florida’s abundance of renewable resources such as sun, wind, and biomass position Florida to be what would some refer to as the “Saudi Arabia” of clean renewable energy.

Despite efforts made by the Senate supporting a government mandate requiring utilities meet a clean energy standard, the bill lacks support needed to pass in the House.  Speaker of the House, Dean Cannon opposes a clean energy standard in favor of oil drilling along the Florida coastline. This seems to be a common tune among the House. District 33 Rep. Sandy Adams said while she does not oppose clean energy she “supports all energy.” Last year Rep. Adams voted in favor bill HB 1219 permitting offshore drilling.

Despite a lack of support in the House, Central Florida senators say they will continue to push for the bill. Senator Lee Constantine (District 22) was honored last week as a “pioneer” of climate and energy by the Southern Alliance of Clean Energy. Constantine filed the current clean energy bill (SB774), a bill similar to the one which passed in the Senate but failed to gain enough votes from the house in 2009.  Senator Constantine expressed that while he favors a clean energy standard he does not exclude the potential of off shore drilling stating that “the two (issues) aren’t really connected.” A similar stance was expressed from the office of Senator Altman (District 24).

The group of citizen lobbyist met with over 30 key legislators last week expressing concerns over implications Florida may face if legislators fail to pass a clean energy mandate this session. One of the most re-occurring concerns heard was over the future implications Florida’s economy.  Susan Glickman, a climate and energy advocate, expressed concern that if the state fails to create market certainty, other states will get in on the ground floor, and land the large firms and small businesses that build manufacturing plants to produce components needed for renewable energy sources – diverting investors which would create a lot of jobs away from Florida.