Kevin Doyle: Comprehensive energy policy needed
Published: Friday, December 21, 2012 at 5:04 p.m.

An important gathering in Jacksonville earlier this month underscored how urgent it is for Florida and the nation to insist that our leaders formulate a coherent, comprehensive policy for America’s energy future. The forum, featuring energy policy leaders at the local, state and national levels, explored the implications of our present approach and concluded that a continued rudderless energy policy will lead nowhere fast.

For us in Florida, this isn’t merely an academic exercise. Energy is a key ingredient in everything we do as a state, and the impact of energy policy is felt everywhere. As a state that consumes more energy than it produces, Florida is often at the mercy of policies established elsewhere.

The “Energy Policy After the Election” forum, sponsored by the Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida and the JAXChamber, featured discussions of the issue from both federal and regional perspectives. Despite their different vantage points, the expert were united in their view that America is on the verge of an energy renaissance in which we can lead the world, but only if our policy makers do their jobs right.

Among the points raised at the forum:

• We are in the midst of a new energy age, brought on by leaps in technology that have made new energy resources available. However, this could all be in jeopardy if our leaders in Washington fail to adopt the right balance of pro-energy development policy and reasonable regulation.

• Nearly all our nation’s energy gains over the last few years have been due to extraction of energy resources from private and state lands. If the federal government would seriously consider reasonable access to federal lands for energy purposes, even more resources, and the jobs they create, would be the result.

• American energy independence means not only economic security, but actual national security. Consider how little influence other regions of the world would have over the United States if they couldn’t dangle their energy reserves over our heads.

• Excessive regulation could stop our nation’s energy progress in its tracks and hamper job creation. When as many as 14 federal agencies are involved in reviewing the future of energy technological advances such as hydraulic fracturing, the bureaucracy can be crippling.

Five years ago, natural gas accounted for about 39 percent of Florida’s overall fuel supply. The Florida Public Service Commission estimates that by 2017 natural gas will make up more than 54 percent. As an energy consumer state, Florida needs policies that make natural gas more plentiful and even more affordable than it already is.

A recent Consumer Energy Alliance report on “The New Energy Future” concluded that North America can achieve energy self-sufficiency by 2020 if it fully utilizes its abundant natural resources. The report lays out specific steps to reach this goal, including establishment of a coherent national energy policy.

The existing patchwork of policies limits Florida’s ability to establish a degree of energy independence. The Keystone XL Pipeline, for example, would carry petroleum from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries, which are a major source of Florida’s gasoline and diesel supply and would especially benefit from the pipeline during the uncertainty of hurricane season. At the same time, greater natural gas production through eased restrictions on hydraulic fracturing would expand supplies of Florida’s predominant fuel source.

But without a comprehensive energy policy, these sources, so important to our energy future, must be fought over, time and time again. As the Jacksonville panelists noted, everyone would benefit from a comprehensive policy; and the time to put such a policy in place is rapidly passing us by.

Kevin Doyle is executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida, the state affiliate of a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to improve consumer understanding of America’s energy security.