Today there will be statewide events to demand bold action on climate change, and I couldn’t be more excited. Here in Orlando folks will be gathering for a rally at 5:30pm at 201 South Orange Avenue, which is in front of Marco Rubio’s Orlando district office.
Marco Rubio is famous for his climate change denialism. He told ABC News “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” Does he imagine the scientists are putting us on? Climate scientists are not really known for that. Politicians, on the other hand are apt to mangle facts and language. To whit, Sen. Rubio told CNN that President Obama isn’t qualified to speak on climate change because he is “not a meteorologist.” Do I even need to unpack this?
What’s most stark to me, is that Rubio also believes, without any evidence, that action taken to address climate change would “destroy” the economy. It’s classic Koch Brothers scare tactics. “We’re not going to make America a harder place to create jobs in order to pursue policies that will do absolutely nothing, nothing to change our climate.” Rubio said at the last debate. “America is a lot of things, the greatest country in the world, absolutely. But America is not a planet.” Not sure what he meant about the planet thing, but I’ll take him at his word there.
So let’s introduce some reality to Marco’s little planetary fantasy here. At the press conference held by the Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment and Organize Now, solar entrepreneur Bill Ferree of Universal Solar paints a much different picture of the economics of addressing climate change.
“Florida sends away between $50 and $150 million dollars a day to buy energy,” said Ferree to the crowd gathered downtown. “We import all of our energy, and we’re the Sunshine State. We could make most of our energy from the sun.”
When Ferree says we import our energy he’s referring to dirty coal, mostly. We’re paying to bring it in on trains. We’re paying to maintain the old power plants that burn it. And we’re also paying to build nuclear plants in environmentally sensitive areas that make Fukushima seem like a citadel of nuclear security.
Meanwhile we’re passing up that $50 to a $150 million dollar a day in economic activity just by not generating our own solar power.
But wait, there’s more.
To get to the point where we can generate that power, we need to install a half billion solar cells in order to get us off of fossil fuels in Florida. Imagine the impact that will have on jobs in Florida. Ferree does the math: “One worker can put up 1,300 solar panels a year. That’s about 40,000 jobs over 10 years. That’s low hanging fruit.”
When those not beholden to fossil fuel special interests (not always Democrats, many of whom are frack-friendly) talk about investing in renewable infrastructure, this is a major component of what they’re talking about. Imagine the security your family would have knowing that a storm could go right ahead and knock out the power in your neighborhood, but you’d still be able to keep the AC on because your solar cells would keep you energy self-sufficient. Anyone who lived through Hurricane Charlie knows that AC isn’t a frivolous luxury in Florida in late summer. Not having AC drove people from their homes. This makes neighborhoods less safe because large tracts of homes stay empty longer, and the whole disruptive scenario creates more economic strain on already hard-hit property owners.
Now let’s switch gears and imagine that a critical mass of Floridians have solar panels and fuel cells that feed their excess power back into the grid. We’d suddenly have a much more reliable, and “smart” power grid. We deserve that kind of 21st Century energy infrastructure — one that’s networked, cellular and self-reliant. To settle for less puts Floridians at a serious disadvantage because it ignores the realities we deal with in terms of both large small scale weather events — never mind the climate reality that we’re trying to address as civilized people.
“Here’s the question for Marco Rubio,” says Ferree. “How much of the $150 million a day would you like to keep in Florida’s economy, and how many of those jobs would you like to keep here?
Ferree thinks the answer should be simple, and I agree.
“All that money and all those jobs.”