Floridians Want the Sunshine State to Become the Clean Energy State

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If it were up to Floridians, the Sunshine State might one day finally start converting all that sunshine into clean energy and become the solar capital of the South.

We believe that because participants responding to an NRDC poll released this week --about 700 Floridians of all political stripes--overwhelmingly support renewable no-emissions energy such as solar or wind, efforts to boost energy efficiency, and the federal government's proposed plan to limit dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.

Specifically, 77 percent of Floridians report positive attitudes toward renewable energy sources; 74 percent favor government standards to curb carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity; and 74 percent consider it "extremely important" for government to expand programs that encourage energy efficiency - such as initiatives to add insulation, upgrade lighting, and have more efficient appliances in homes and businesses.

The results are similar to SurveyUSA's July poll that found 77 percent of Floridians favor the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Carbon Pollution Standards to limit power plant emissions, and 71 percent recognize climate change as a serious problem.

Electric power plants are the largest source of the dangerous carbon pollution driving climate change and extreme weather.

Based on these polls, residents of the Sunshine State clearly "get it." Most Floridians don't need to be convinced that climate change is here since nature has already persuaded them. In fact, 91 percent believe climate change is real, and more than half of the Floridians recognize that human activity is the cause. Florida has been declared a disaster area 19 times since 2000 due to extreme weather events. In 2012, Floridians endured high temperatures that broke nine heat records and contributed to 62 large wildfires. They experienced the wettest summer on record in 2012, breaking 35 precipitation records. And just last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared 2014 the hottest year on earth since record-keeping began in the 1800s.

This latest survey, conducted in five states last month on behalf of NRDC by Hart Research Associates and American Viewpoint, also sends a clear message that the residents of Florida and other states don't support a Big Polluter agenda being pushed in Washington. In fact, 67 percent of Floridians support more investment in clean energy like efficiency and renewables instead of traditional (and polluting) resources like coal, oil and natural gas to generate the energy necessary to keep the lights on in Florida.

Florida Citizens Want Carbon Pollution Controls

The poll results indicate that Floridians of all political persuasions recognize the seriousness of air pollution caused by fossil-fueled power plants and the need to address climate change. About 42 percent of the Floridians identified themselves as conservative, 23 percent said they were liberal, 31 percent claimed to be "middle of

the road" and the remaining 4 percent weren't sure.

With those political orientations, the poll results show:

  • 71 percent consider air pollution either a serious problem;
  • 80 percent support enforcement of environmental laws and regulations (50 percent think enforcement is "not too tough" and 30 percent think it's "just right); and
  • 74 percent say they favor the EPA's proposed first-ever Carbon Pollution Standards to require power plants to cut carbon emissions.

Florida ranks third in U.S. power plant carbon emissions--behind only Texas and Pennsylvania. In 2012 (the most recent data available) Florida's power plants released over 111 million tons of carbon pollution. Fortunately, there is significant potential for reducing those carbon emissions. Harnessing Florida's abundant solar and energy efficiency opportunities would transform the state's energy outlook, and in the process also drive significant job growth and consumer savings.

The NRDC estimates that by 2020, if Florida implements strong Carbon Pollution Standards to reduce emissions from power plants, the state could see about 10,000 new efficiency-related jobs--largely through investments in energy efficiency. The average customer's energy bill actually would go down -- by 30 cents per month - and that would add up to $2 million in monthly savings for all Florida customers. At the same time, 11.4 million fewer tons of carbon would be released per year because when customers optimize their use of energy, it decreases the amount needed to meet their needs and reduces the amount of fossil fuels required to generate it.

Florida at an Energy Crossroads

Florida has a unique opportunity to become the Solar State, a model of energy efficiency, and transition away from polluting fossil fuels. It has every reason and incentive to do that. These latest polling results clearly illustrate that the residents of the state are ready for this transition to a clean energy future. Now we need our elected leaders to put partisan and special interest politics aside and move the state forward.

In the President's State of The Union Speech last week he called out some leaders for using the "I'm not a scientist" line as a way of avoiding a crucial issue. Governor Scott famously used that line throughout his re-election campaign last year. Floridians are no longer buying this dodge. So what needs to get done? Governor Rick Scott and his executive agencies, along with the Florida Legislature, need to roll up their sleeves and implement the policies to deliver that future--including submitting a smart State Plan to EPA that meets the Clean Power Plan carbon pollution reduction targets while maximizing the use of clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency as a way to get the Sunshine State to the goal.