As originally published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel
November 25, 2019
The divide between reducing carbon emissions in our atmosphere and maintaining a healthy, unrestricted economy has narrowed significantly in the last few years. Once, these two major concerns were at odds with each other, as most traditional legislation aimed at cleaning up the environment also meant putting the brakes on our free market and jeopardizing American jobs.
But technological breakthroughs in the energy sector have changed all of this. Now, innovative energy resources are powering more and more of our nation’s grid while employing workers with steady-paying careers in many regions where economies have been losing local companies to overseas competitors and e-commerce giants for years.
As our conservative leaders see positive changes in their own home states, the Republican stance on clean energy and addressing climate concerns has shifted, especially among younger conservatives. A few months ago, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum and the American Conservation Coalition released a poll that showed more than three in four (78 percent) of millennial Republicans support action from our government to accelerate clean energy developments in the U.S.
Conservatives in the Sunshine State have echoed the national shift toward expanding clean energy resources, as well. A Florida clean energy survey conducted by Clean Energy Conservatives in April of this year found that 58 percent of GOP voters polled want a greater emphasis on solar power, and 44 percent of GOP voters polled want a greater emphasis on wind power.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. has embraced this new wave of Republican excitement for carbon-friendly market growth. He has previously said the climate change is an issue that the state currently faces, and that it must be addressed by real solutions.
“People can have a debate about what we can do about climate change and the causes, but the bottom line is that the rising of sea levels is immeasurable in Florida,” said Rubio in an interview with the Washington Examiner. “So, if you represent South Florida or live in South Florida, it’s really not something you can ignore.”
Now Rubio has brought Florida’s expertise to Washington by joining up with the new bipartisan U.S. Senate Climate Solutions Caucus. The caucus was founded by U.S. Senators Mike Braun (R-IN) and Christopher Coons (D-DE), who both want to see more cooperation between liberals and conservatives on the issue of climate change in the United States.
It’s important that Florida is represented on this caucus. It has made solid progress in the advanced energy economy over the last few years. In fact, a 2019 report from E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) showed that the Florida was third in the nation for total clean energy jobs last year, coming in behind only California and Texas. In 2018, Florida workers held over 158,000 jobs in clean energy, with over 10,000 in solar, 4,400 in wind, 118,000 in energy efficiency, and 9,300 in the clean vehicles industry. That represents real results and, looking forward, real opportunity.
The caucus builds on work already being done by a growing number of Senate Republicans who are taking on leadership roles in the area of clean energy development. Senators Collins (R-ME), Gardner (R-CO), and McSally (R-AZ) introduced the Better Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Act, which has broad bipartisan support. Senators Cornyn and Cassidy of Texas and Louisiana, respectively, introduced the Launching Energy Advancement and Development through Innovations for Natural Gas (LEADING) Act, which promotes R&D of better methods of carbon capture.
The Senate Climate Solutions Caucus ushers in a new era for bi-partisan cooperation as the nation gears up for a coordinated push to combat climate change with realistic, market-driven solutions. Senators Braun and Coons had the foresight to form the caucus at a time when new ideas and new blood were badly needed to jumpstart the conversation in this arena.
Rubio’s membership should help the caucus speed up their timeline for climate solutions — which are frankly needed now, not sometime later down the road. More cooperation between America’s two major political parties will undoubtedly lead to better climate solutions that will benefit all American citizens while boosting our economy.
Heather Reams is Executive Director for Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES), a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization founded in 2013 to engage Republican policymakers and the public about responsible, conservative solutions to address our nation’s energy, economic, and environmental security while increasing America’s competitive edge.