Fossil Fuel Stranglehold on Climate in Congress Need Not Thwart U.S. Progress

Environment Florida Research & Policy Center

Despite the political dominance of fossil fuel interests and their effective veto of any progress on energy and climate policy in Congress, the U.S. can dramatically reduce global warming emissions, according to a study released today by Environment Florida Research and Policy Center.

Environment Florida Research and Policy Center was joined today by Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda and students Cornerstone Learning Community to release an analysis showing that local governments and states, with an assist from federal agencies, can cut carbon pollution dramatically by 2030. Aliki Moncrief provided the following statement:

Despite the political dominance of fossil fuel interests and their effective veto of any progress on energy and climate policy in the U.S. Congress, the U.S. can and must dramatically reduce global warming emissions. We’re here today to show why Florida has a very important role to play in this critical moment.

In 2011, News reports of droughts and wildfires in Texas, heat waves in the Gulf States, floods in the Mid-Atlantic and up to the Northeast, and melting ice caps are daily reminders of what science tells us to expect more of as fossil fuel pollution warms our world. We have a great challenge to reduce emissions as quickly as possible.

Our analysis shows that state and local governments, with an assist from federal agencies, can cut carbon pollution down 20% from 2008 levels by 2020 and down 34% by 2030.

In Florida, we can contribute to an even greater reduction than in many other states:  together with four other states we account for nearly one third of the potential emissions reductions that can be accomplished by 2030.  We can actually reduce our State’s emissions from 2008 levels down 24% by about the time these 5th graders will be able to vote in their first election [2020] and 41% by 2030 if we adopt a few key policies.

One example is adopting a Renewable Electricity Standard. If we in the Sunshine State adopted a standard so that we could get 25 percent of our electricity from renewable sources like solar and clean biomass by 2025 and 33 percent by 2030, that alone would reduce carbon emissions by 40 million metric tons in 2030 – the equivalent of taking 7.1 million passenger cars off the road, or taking 8.6 coal-fired power plants offline.

Our study, entitled “The Way Forward on Global Warming:  Reducing Carbon Pollution Today and Restoring Momentum for Tomorrow by Promoting Clean Energy,” evaluates the emissions reduction potential of 30 such policy tools across 50 states and five sectors.
If implemented more broadly in states across the country, these policy tools would yield the greater overall carbon reduction we urgently need while building public support for the necessary steps we’ll need to take through the U.S. Congress in the future.

The public and a growing number of stakeholders strongly support saving energy, shifting to clean power, reducing our oil dependence and reducing fossil fuel pollution.
Already the United States produces five times more wind power and eight times more solar power than we did seven years ago.  The number of jobs in Florida’s solar sector is on the rise.  Light-duty cars and trucks sold in 2009 were the most fuel efficient and least polluting ever – and with the administration’s recent announcement of the 54.5 mpg fuel efficiency standard, cars will be even cleaner still in the near future. Nationally, the amount of new energy savings delivered by utility energy efficiency programs has nearly tripled since 2004.

While we have made some strides, ultimately, there can be no solution to global warming that does not include a national program to constrain carbon and put a price on it. For now though, Florida can do its part by moving forward with an agenda that greatly reduces our emissions, and we can use our successes to show all Americans that even though climate change is a global problem, state and local lawmakers can make a positive difference.

By first tapping into the support of stakeholders, taking action to reduce emissions in any way we can, and showing that these solutions work, we will be able to overcome the entrenched opposition of the coal and oil industry and their allies in the U.S. Congress.