Castor urged to support renewable energy bill

05/13/09 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:


Local business and environmental leaders are asking U.S. Representative Kathy Castor to help convince other members of Congress to support a major energy bill. They say it would increase renewable energy production, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create green jobs. More than a dozen people, including Phil Compton -- regional representative for the Sierra Club, met with members of Castor’s staff in Tampa this morning.

“The Waxman-Markey bill is the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that is in the Energy and Commerce Committee right now. Henry Waxman [D-CA] is the chair of that committee and that is the climate change bill.”

Waxman told reporters on Tuesday that a “compromise” had been reached on the bill to appease Democrats from states which produce fossil fuel. It would require greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by only 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels. Longer-term emission limits would not change from original figures of 85 percent cuts by 2050, Waxman said.

States would also be required to meet minimum renewable energy standards under the new bill. But the mandates are lower than environmentalists had hoped, because energy efficiency gains could be counted as part of the 20 percent “renewable” quota that must be met by 2025.

Representative Castor is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Sierra Club’s Phil Compton says a federal renewable energy standard is needed. “It addresses the failure of the state of Florida to enact a renewable electricity standard in the session that just ended because we would have a federal standard.”

The bill’s text will be released on Thursday, Waxman said. Discussion will begin on Monday, and a final version of the bill will be ready by Memorial Day.

Because of the quick timetable, and because of resistance among some Democrats and Republicans, Compton says it will “take a lot of action, a lot of work” to rally support for the bill.

“We hope that Kathy Castor prevails upon the 17 Democrats on that committee who aren’t quite sure how they feel about climate change and to get them to see that this is the best thing for America to get our economy back in order, to get jobs out there.”

WMNF attempted to contact Representative Castor, but she did not respond by air time.

Yogi Goswami, co-director of the Clean Energy Research Center at the University of South Florida, says this climate legislation is important for two reasons. “This is the future of our energy. And number two: that this is going to result in economic development.”

Before the group met with Representative Castor’s staff, they held a press conference. It was organized by the progressive activist group Political Action. Joe Illingworth is a Tampa Bay coordinator with “The things we’ve done in the past -- drill, drill, drill baby -- just don’t work anymore.”

“Well-directed funds” for renewable energies are needed in the state and from the federal government, according to Rex James of Solar Direct in Bradenton, who has been in the solar power business since 1976. “It’s critical now that we keep the rebate moneys that are dwindling.”

Corey Watson, an energy consultant with Eco Technologies, also favors solar rebates. He says there are other incentives the government could provide. “We are in favor of renewable energy credits. … We also staunchly support renewable energy dividends to put purchasing power into individuals and small business’ hands.”

House Committee on Energy and Commerce

Clean Energy Research Center at USF

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