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Florida to be a 'no show' at climate conference


The United Nations Conference on Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen later this year is of little interest to Florida policymakers.

The event is from Dec. 7 to 18, and under discussion will be ways for communities to lower carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal. The conference's goal is to control the pollution problem that affects all communities through the development of cheap renewable energy.

The attempts to reduce dependence on foreign oil, reduce carbon emissions and create millions of new jobs through the investment in new technology are already the stated goals of legislation currently in the U.S. House of Representatives in the Waxman-Markey Bill, and in the Climate Bill in the U.S. Senate.

However, there are no local public policy plans to implement strategies for cheap renewable energy, and there is currently no renewable energy bill in Florida's Legislature.

Neither Gov. Charlie Crist nor his energy officials intend to go to Copenhagen.

Also not going are Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, State Rep. Bill Galvano, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, local Bradenton city council members, the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction at Florida State University, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota County Commissioner Shannon Staub and the Florida Public Service Commission.

The reasons cited most often for non-attendance were a lack of knowledge of the event, a lack of funds for the trip or not it is scheduled in their calendar.

According to many economists, energy use is directly related to economic growth. The winners of the future will be communities that improve and expand renewable energy production. The opportunity to learn about new technologies available will be in Copenhagen. According to Connie Hedegaard, the Danish Minister for Climate/Energy, communities will lose jobs unless they become better at developing and using energy-efficient technologies, which she said is a precondition for growth.

Clean renewable energies account for less than a tenth of energy usage. Advancements are being made in solar, hydrogen and fusion/fission (nuclear) technology. Currently, the costs may not outweigh the benefits or profits, but this does not mean that alternative energy could not be a wise investment for the future economy of Florida.

Phil Compton of the Sierra Club in St. Petersburg said Florida Power & Light has invested in wind energy, but in other states and not Florida since there is no policy incentive there. The two current solar plants coming online will only provide enough energy to maintain those power plants, not supply energy to the state.

Solar power can be a viable energy alternative for one main reason: it can be locally installed. A solar panel can be placed on top of a roof and no big generator or power lines are necessary. Unit costs are expected to decrease as silicon prices come down; however, installation costs remain high. Some large utility companies are investing in solar power plants, but not in Florida.

Wind energy technology is simple and effective. In 2008, wind energy use grew outside the U.S. by 20 percent annually. The costs involved with wind energy are far less than coal and natural gas. However, there are other costs associated with wind energy because cable lines are necessary to transport the power.

More information about inexpensive renewable energy and public policy initiatives will be at the conference in Copenhagen, and the world will be watching.


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