Diverse Energy Supply Key to Florida’s Future

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The following is a guest blog from Kevin Doyle, executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida, the state affiliate of a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. Consumer Energy Alliance is a PACE partner.

There’s good news on the horizon for Floridians from the Gold Coast to the Big Bend and beyond.  A recent report by the Florida Chamber of Commerce showed the Sunshine State is poised for growth in workforce, innovation and economic activity in the years ahead. These positive forecasts build on the more than $30 billion in economic activity and over 130,000 new jobs created just lasted year.

This is a welcome development for those of us who call the Sunshine State home as well as the over 10 million individuals the University of Florida predicts will relocate here in the coming decades. Of course, while this expected economic growth is good news, it’s worth noting it’s not guaranteed.

Our state has the 5th best tax climate for business and the most favorable tax climate for individuals in the nation which are both great for consumers.  However, as we continue to shift our energy reliance toward natural gas, Florida’s business community and consumers can be negatively affected if we do not have the right policies in place to protect the benefits that our current energy situation is providing to our country. Energy is a key ingredient in everything we do as a state, and we need to promote policies that support expanded responsible development of American resources and in particular those that are here in Florida.

For these reasons, we must be vigilant in advancing projects and policies that support an “all-of the-above” energy portfolio that ensures our state is positioned as an attractive and affordable place to live and conduct business.

That was the topic of an “Energy 101” briefing held by Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida (CEA) at the state capitol recently.  Among other items discussed, the event highlighted the potential for shale gas development operations that have been proposed in the Sunniland Formation in southwest Florida.

Hydraulic fracturing has received much attention recently as the technology has enabled a resurgence in American oil and natural gas production.  The prospects of it occurring here is an exciting proposition as it could diversify our state’s natural gas supply which, in turn, could reduce our electricity costs as 62 percent of Florida’s net electricity generation is supplied by this clean-burning resource.

Of course, as has been the case elsewhere, some Floridians are concerned that hydraulic fracturing could negatively impact our state’s groundwater supplies.  However, it’s worth noting that over 1.2 million oil and natural gas wells have undergone the process without negatively impacting groundwater resources.

While critics refuse to believe this reality, it’s true. Just this year, newly minted EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy noted, “there’s nothing inherently dangerous in fracking” and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz reiterated that sentiment stating, “I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.”

In fact, Denise Cox, Vice President of Storm Energy Ltd and a geoscientist with experience in hydraulic fracturing operations for the oil and gas industry, spoke at CEA’s recent briefing about how studies have shown groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing is “not physically plausible.”

It’s also worth noting that additional natural gas supplies are important to advance our state’s renewable energy goals as they provide needed baseload power for more variable electricity sources like solar and wind.  Rhone Resch, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, noted this last year when he stated, “natural gas and renewables complement each other very nicely,” as they “are working together to address some of the most pressing energy needs in the country.”

As our state’s economy and population continues to grow, it is of the utmost importance that we pursue and advance policies that will help reduce our energy costs, meet our growing energy needs and diversify our energy mix.

Our state’s economy is best served by advancing an all-of-the-above approach to electricity generation that allows for expansion of all forms of energy — including renewable, nuclear, and fossil energy.  This will ensure affordable and reliable electricity that will help us meet current needs while preparing for future growth. After all, sound energy choices made today will support a stronger, more affordable, Florida tomorrow.