Solar Tribune

Marco Rubio’s Confusing Stand on Climate and Solar Energy


Rubio is rising in the polls. Does the senator from the “Sunshine State” support positive solar policies?

In the roller coaster ride that is the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Marco Rubio is  the latest candidate to rise in the polls.  In fact, Rubio has risen to the #2 slot behind the Trump juggernaut, as Ben Carson’s poll numbers fades fast. So far, other top tier Republican candidates Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina have not impressed solar advocates with their stands on renewable energy policy. What does the young, charismatic senator from the sunny state of Florida have to offer on the subject of energy policy and solar development?

Republican candidates seem to be playing a game of intellectual chicken when it comes to climate change. They think that any admission of the possibility that the extensive scientific research on climate change is true means that they are surrendering personally to President Obama. However, some candidates– including Rubio– are tapping the brakes while they negotiate a more nuanced message that allows them to avoid head-on collision with mounting scientific findings.marco-rubio-envy

Historically, Rubio has taken a more middle of the road approach to climate and energy. Here is what Senator Rubio said in 2007:

“Global warming, dependence on foreign sources of fuel, and capitalism have come together to create opportunities for us that were unimaginable just a few short years ago,” he said. “Today, Florida has the opportunity to pursue bold energy policies, not just because they’re good for our environment, but because people can actually make money doing it. This nation and ultimately the world is headed toward emission caps and energy diversification.”

Sounds good, right, solar fans?  But wait, here is what he said in a recent Republican debate:

“”I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it,” he said. “And I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy.”

In fact, Rubio’s statements on climate change and energy policy have been continuously becoming fuzzier and fuzzier as of late. At the debates he still insists that he is “not skeptical” of climate change, but he justifies non-action because;

  1. The climate is always changing
  2. “The United States is not a planet” and cannot change the climate with policy, and
  3. Clean energy policies will make it “hard to create jobs”

He is, of course, correct, on his first point, although perhaps guilty of obfuscation. On the second point, he is, again, ½ correct and ½ guilty of obfuscation. On the third point, he is patently wrong. The recent Clean Jobs Florida  study indicates the majority of clean energy businesses in Florida are locally-owned small businesses. Nearly 75% of these small businesses employ fewer than 10 clean energy employees, and despite a lack of policy support, growth in these clean energy companies over the earlier 12 months was 11%. Still, Florida lags behind other less sunny states due to its lack of policies to allow solar to compete freely in the energy marketplace.

Before his presidential run and the need to play to the most vocal right wing of the Republican party, Senator Rubio at least gave lip-service to the enormous potential of solar development in his home state. He is also painfully aware of the fact that if he were to take the nomination and face a general election in which 69% of the American public believes that climate change is real. Obviously, Senator Rubio is intentionally muddying the waters to protect himself from the accusation of “flip-flopping” on climate. Which, of course, is exactly what he is doing.

Solar advocates can only hope that, despite the pressures of far-right political action committees, that Senator Rubio still stands behind his statements in his 2006 book,  100 Innovative Ideas for Florida:

“…Producing less than 1% of the energy it consumes and limited by its geography, Florida is more susceptible to interruptions in energy supply than any other state. The state’s reliance on imported petroleum products, in addition to its anticipated growth, underscores its vulnerability to fluctuations in the market. Solar energy & biofuels appear to be especially promising alternative energy sources for Florida. Florida has obvious advantages in the area of solar energy and is also pursuing the production of ethanol. Recent scientific developments and expected future developments could greatly expand the types of feedstock available to produce ethanol at a lower cost than that of either corn or sugar. Thanks to past initiatives, Florida also appears to have achieved a leadership position in the development of hydrogen power. Clean, safe nuclear energy is another promising option to diversify Florida’s energy portfolio. Other promising areas include waste-to-energy conversion and wind and water power.”

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