By James Taylor
Outside activist groups are spending millions of dollars on political ads claiming Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott is not doing enough to fight global warming.
A look at the facts, however, reveals Florida is more than pulling its weight on the global warming issue, and the political ads are actually an attempt to promote a Democratic political candidate rather than an effort to fight global warming.
Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, who made his fortune funding coal power in third-world nations, is leading the global warming push in Florida, spending $10 million on anti-Scott political ads. The ads take a decidedly negative and sarcastic tone, including claiming Scott’s plan to address global warming is to build an ark for himself and his friends.
Steyer’s sarcastic tone aside, there is essentially nothing a Florida governor can do to change the global temperature. The United States accounts for less than 15 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, and Florida accounts for only 4 percent of the U.S. total. Accordingly, Florida accounts for significantly less than 1 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Florida could eliminate all its carbon dioxide emissions and scientists would never be able to measure the impact on global temperatures.
Even so, global warming activists argue Floridians should shoulder the burden of global warming action in order to demonstrate leadership. Floridians, however, already are demonstrating leadership and paying a high price for it.
Global warming activists say the best method of reducing carbon dioxide emissions is to cut energy use. Florida, however, is a national leader in this regard, with only seven states using less energy per person.
Global warming activists target coal power, despite the relatively small amount of electricity Floridians use, because coal produces more carbon dioxide than any other widely used electricity source. Florida, however, has already weaned itself off coal. Coal powers 39 percent of the nation’s electricity, but Floridians use less than half as much coal—just 21 percent.
As a result of these factors, only 10 states emit less carbon dioxide per person than Florida. All 10 of the other states accomplish this by utilizing large amounts of emissions-free hydroelectric power or nuclear power. Unfortunately, global warming activists generally oppose both these emission-free power sources. Florida is unique in accomplishing its low-carbon economy while using less nuclear power than the national average and essentially no hydroelectric power.
Any way you cut it, Floridians already are in a national leadership role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and our low-carbon economy comes at a very high price. Floridians pay substantially higher electricity prices than the national average and much higher prices than any of our neighbors.
In 2013, Florida electricity prices were 8 percent higher than in Georgia, 13 percent higher than Mississippi’s, 14 percent higher than Alabama’s and 29 percent higher than Louisiana’s. These higher energy prices take a bigger bite out of Floridians’ living standards, and the higher energy prices make it more difficult for Florida businesses to compete with businesses in other states. That means fewer jobs for Floridians.
Despite Florida already taking a costly lead in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the federal government recently announced new global warming restrictions that will impact Florida more severely than other states. The new EPA restrictions will require a 30 percent national reduction in power plant carbon dioxide emissions, but they will impose different requirements on different states. Floridians will be hit especially hard, being forced to reduce carbon dioxide emissions another 38 percent, rather than the national average of 30 percent. This will further widen the gap between Florida’s high-cost, low-carbon economy and those of the rest of the nation.
Why then are Steyer and other activists pouring so much money into criticizing Scott for not imposing even more severe global warming restrictions? The answer is quite simple — partisan politics. Steyer is targeting only Republicans in the 2014 elections, and he is ignoring Democrats who support allowing higher carbon dioxide emissions in their home states.
Global warming activists can argue endlessly for stricter global warming policies, but they cannot argue with a straight face that Scott and Florida are lagging behind the efforts of other states.
James Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Florida resident and senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute.