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Report: Energy plans won’t harm Florida economy

Federal legislation to combat global warming won’t harm Florida’s economy, a new report said.


A new economic report, commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund, says the latest federal proposal to curtail greenhouse gases will have ”very modest or even negligible” costs for the Florida economy over the next 15 years.

Co-authored by two researchers at the University of California at Berkeley using a data model created there, the report concludes that that a federal cap-and-trade program to decrease carbon, Florida’s economy would reach $1.47 trillion in February 2025, only eight weeks later than it would without a cap-and-trade.

A cap-and-trade system would require companies to cap their greenhouse emissions at certain levels, or trade and/or purchase carbon credits from companies that have done a better job reducing emissions.

The study measured possible effects of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which is expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives in the next few days.

”Cap-and-trade really doesn’t present an onerous cost to businesses,” said co-author David Roland-Holst in a telephone interview.

Other research has reached similar conclusions. John Reilly, a specialist in climate change costs at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that the Berkeley calculation “is not particularly surprising.”

”If for example, the economy is growing at 3 percent per year, and you estimate that the cost of the policy in a year in the future, like 2030, is 1.5 percent of the gross state product, then that is obviously a half of a year’s growth. And so it is fair to say that the level of state GDP or income you expected would only be delayed by six months,” Reilly wrote.

Florida Power & Light, which gets 70 percent of its power from natural gas and nuclear, rather than carbon-spewing coal, estimates the early years of a carbon policy should make for a ”modest” increase in customers’ bills.

The authors of the study, The Florida Economy and a Federal Carbon Cap, note that their model does not take into account energy efficiencies or technological innovations to reduce carbon emissions. The study also does not calculate the cost of doing nothing, which could be steep in a place like South Florida that is so close to sea level.

”Obviously, with sea level rise and potentially stronger tropical storms Florida has a lot to lose from climate change — probably more than many states,” Reilly wrote. “Is that worth potentially slowing growth?”

The National Association of Manufacturers, which has been adamantly opposed to climate change legislation, published a study last year warning about dire consequences if a 2008 proposal for cap-and-trade was passed. On Tuesday, NAM spokesman Hank Cox said the organization didn’t yet have calculations about the effects of the legislation now moving through Congress.