With the recent passage of Amendment 4, you might be under the impression that the Sunshine State is making hay from our abundant natural resource and creating a healthy amount of energy from solar. Not so. In fact, although Amendment 4 is a step in the right direction, it’s actually natural gas that carries the weight for our state’s long-term energy security.
Amendment 4 will now let property owners install rooftop solar panels without facing a property tax increase. While it is worthwhile to do everything we can to help our state and nation build towards a cleaner energy future, installing solar panels one-by-one won’t transform Florida’s clean energy independence.
The news that the Sabal Trail Pipeline project earned the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) comes at a critical time, with Florida facing a mandated 11-percent cut in CO2 emissions by 2030 under the federal government’s Clean Power Plan. The cuts mean that a large amount of our current energy supply will go offline at the same time that projections show a double-digit increase in electricity demand.
We’ll still need to keep the lights on, of course, and a one-fifth power deficit cannot be filled by renewables alone. Solar and wind, for instance, are too intermittent for days when, even in the Sunshine State, sunlight or adequate breezes are scarce. When you take into account that 20 percent energy shortfall and try to address it entirely with solar energy, we would need to spend $86 billion to build a 180,000-acre solar panel farm – nearly three times the size of Orlando – for that to meet our energy needs.
This does not make sense for Florida.
That’s why it’s smart to have energy from a variety of sources. Working in concert with wind and solar, natural gas can fully support renewables on shady or calm days, and it burns twice as cleanly as high-carbon energy sources. It’s also an abundant and affordable natural resource, that keeps our energy prices lower than the national average – 43rd in the nation.
The Sabal Trail project will create 700 high-quality construction jobs, and projects like this inject nearly $840 million into our state’s economy. It will also improve our quality of life for Floridians; expanding the state’s natural gas infrastructure will reduce air pollution, which kills 2,400 Floridians prematurely each year and causes health ailments like heart attacks, bronchitis and asthma in many others.
Approval of the Sabal Trail pipeline puts a mark in the win column for Florida’s energy and environmental security, its residents and its economy, laying the groundwork for a bright future in the Sunshine State.
By Tom Matthews
Tom Matthews is a resident of Ft. Lauderdale, business manager of Construction and Craft Workers Local Union #1652, and a Special International Representative for the Laborers International Union.