WEST PALM BEACH
When it comes to a revered source of energy in Florida, do you think of sunshine or coal?
Hint: Here's what state Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, said this week about coal:
"God gave us this resource. Until we have better technology at some point in the future we need to use it to keep our economy going."
Leaning on God to validate coal, the dirty-energy source that produces more greenhouse gas pollution than other source of fossil fuels, might seem like an odd position to take for an elected official in Florida.
After all, it's those greenhouse gases that are helping to accelerate the climate change that is melting the polar ice caps and leading to rises in ocean levels that will one day submerge Florida's coastline and threaten its drinking water.
So you might think Florida lawmakers would embrace clean energy at every turn. But Wood was the point man in a legislative initiative to exempt Florida from complying with a federally proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants.
"The United States has abundant supplies of coal that provide economic and energy security benefits, including affordable and reliable electricity," reads the proposed Florida missive to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"Carbon regulation for existing coal-fueled electric generating units could threaten the affordability and reliability of Florida's electric supply."
Florida doesn't mine any coal. It's hauled here on trains from Kentucky and West Virginia, and it accounts for about 21 percent of Florida's electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
As long as God is apparently involved in this process, I would think The Almighty might wonder why we need to do all this out-of-state mining and hauling when He gave Florida so much sun.
But the Sunshine State doesn't use much sun at all. Renewable energy in Florida accounts for only about 2.2 percent of its energy sources, with biomass plants that burn plants, wood and garbage accounting for most of that number.
So you might imagine that legislators might be eager to find more avenues for expanding solar energy.
But instead, while they were propping up coal, they were turning away from solar energy.
The Florida House is blocking a voter initiative that could remove the tangible property tax on rooftop solar systems, a move would make such systems more affordable in Florida.
"The Legislature has done virtually nothing to encourage private investment in solar development in the state," complained Wayne Wallace, president of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association.
The reason for that is probably best explained by a report issued last week by Integrity Florida, a non-partisan research and government watchdog group.
The report, "Power Play: Political Influence of Florida's Top Energy Corporations," outlined the efforts by the state's four largest power utilities -- Florida Power and Light, Progress Energy/Duke Energy, Tampa Electric and Gulf Power -- to get their way with state lawmakers.
From 2002 to 2012, those four companies gave $18 million in political contributions to state-level candidates, making them among the top donors, the report said. And they employ, on average, one lobbyist for every two legislators.
Expanding solar power by making it cost-efficient for third parties to lease solar panels to Florida homeowners and businesses isn't part of the business model for the state's power monopolies. Burning dirty coal is.
So that's why God loves coal so much in Florida.
Frank Cerabino, writes for The Palm Beach Post. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.