Lobbyists from electric companies in Florida have managed to strike a blow against energy conservation in a misguided attempt to “attract new business” in the state. The Florida Public Service Commission recently voted to ignore a 2008 state law that required utilities to expand their existing conservation programs, reversing a rule that would have required Progress Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light to encourage customers to use less electricity.
The St. Petersburg Times reported the commission’s decision “follows the wishes of Gov. Rick Scott, whose staff recently weighed in on the energy debate. At a meeting of electric company lobbyists and energy industry representatives in late June, the governor’s former policy director, Mary Anne Carter, said the governor wanted the state to soften the energy efficiency goals to lower the cost of electricity in Florida to attract new business.”
Time and again, we hear how removing public safeguards and environmental protections will be good for business. Not only is that wrong, there is precious little discussion about the consequences of putting public health and safety at risk in the name of corporate profits. Safeguards are in place to protect children and the elderly – the most vulnerable of our citizens – and we must not lose sight of that when policy changes are considered.
There is a better path toward energy efficiency and job creation. “Efficiency Works,” a report from the Center for American Progress and the Energy Resource Management Corporation finds that a straightforward set of policies aimed at upgrading just 40% of the residential and commercial building stock in the United States would:
- Create 625,000 sustained full-time jobs over a decade
- Spark $500 billion in new investments to upgrade 50 million homes and office buildings
- Generate as much as $64 billion a year in cost savings for U.S. ratepayers, freeing consumers to spend their money in more productive ways
Instead of bowing to the interests of Big Business, Florida and the nation as a whole should be taking a smarter approach to energy and initiating an efficiency policy that would help to combat global warming, lower our nation’s reliance on foreign fossil fuels and create jobs.
There are ways to be smarter about how we use energy and how we can fight unemployment. Reversing rules on conservation is not one of them.