Let’s talk about your electric bill, and something you can do to start pushing back. Can you say the words “renewable energy” quickly enough?
You ask: What in the world can I do?
It is true: Electric utilities are extraordinarily powerful. Their lobbyists guard the decision makers, and behind them stand Arab royalty and behind them, radical Muslim clerics who hate the United States.
Fossil-fuel generation of electricity is a continuous loop spinning mercury into the food chain and toxic gases into the atmosphere, harming Creation, binding up more than 20,000 American soldiers and civilians dead and injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, a war without end against terrorism, and global warming.
People want answers to questions: “Why can’t I have a solar power on my rooftop now, at an economical price? Why can’t I sell to my utility excess power generated by my solar system at the same price I pay? Why do I have to send my children to fight wars in the Middle East to protect oil supplies when renewable energy could solve the world’s needs? Why cede jobs to Germany, or Japan, or China, or for that matter, California when we could be building a new energy economy in Florida?”
First, there’s reason for some optimism:
In 2005, the Florida Legislature took first steps to create a rebate pool to provide incentives for ownership of solar systems by consumers and businesses.
But Florida’s allocation from general-revenue funds of $3 million is puny compared to California’s 10-year commitment of $2.1 billion to $3.2 billion, now being sorted out through the California Solar Initiative that is intended to take effect on Jan. 1, 2007.
And California goes a step further: If your solar-photovoltaic rooftop system generates more electricity than you consume, the little revolving disk in your electric meter spins backward.
How beautiful is that: A credit on your electric bill priced at the same rate you pay.
But not in Florida. Here, “net metering” is optional, with a rate differential in favor of the utilities that is just plain depressing.
The good news is that change is in the air. The bad news is it’s moving at the speed of molasses.
In its initiatives to support renewable energy, California is using public policy for energy reform to pay respect to sacrifices we are asking our children to make in places like Camp Pendelton, where American children train for a war without borders.
Why not in Florida?
In Tampa, each day the nerve center for U.S. military operations in the Middle East turns on its lights to protect us from a world made exceedingly dangerous by our energy choices. It’s the same in every one of the military installations in Florida: Key West, Pensacola, Orlando, Milton, Jacksonville, Atlantic Beach, Panama City, Mayport, Salt Springs, Homestead, Coco Beach, Valpariso, Crestview, Port St. Joe, Panama City, Avon Park, Destin and Port Canaveral. I hope I haven’t missed any.
The point is: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask for renewable energy to protect your country.
Here is a beginning: Mark Saturday on your calender. In the Orlando area, 10 homes with solar-power systems will be available for viewing as part of the 11th Annual America Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour.
What you can do is be part of Orlando’s first “flash mob” for solar power by visiting one of these sites at exactly 10 a.m. A flash mob describes a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place for a brief period of time and then quickly disperse. They are usually organized with the help of the Internet or other digital-communications networks.
If you fire up your BlackBerrys and e-mails, you can do a world of good for your electric bill and more.
Urge your friends and family who care about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, who care about the plight of Middle Eastern nations, who care about the dire need to reform our energy future, to commit 10 minutes at 10 a.m. at one of the addresses posted on the Web site below.
Spend more time, if you can afford to, but by all means, spend 10 minutes for freedom.
Watch what happens when elected officials and candidates for public office in November see what you have done. Your electric bill won’t go down all at once. But you will see the decision makers who can make it happen respond just like that French politician who chased after insurgents in the Jardin de Luxembourg in the uprising of 1848 gasping, “I’m their leader, I must follow them!”