Most people recognize that we need to wean our way off fossil fuels and embrace clean energy if we have any chance of avoiding the worst effects of climate change. Unfortunately, some of the people who don't realize this reality happen to be the governors of red states, and they are using their power to undermine collective efforts for the U.S. to kick its oil habit.
Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, signed into law last week a bill that will prevent cities from shifting away from fossil fuel sources. The bill promotes so-called "energy choice" by stipulating that municipalities within the state "may not enact or enforce a resolution, ordinance, rule, code, policy, or take any action that restricts or prohibits or has the effect of restricting or prohibiting the types or fuel sources of energy production.”
Make no mistake, while the law's language acts like the mission here is equal opportunity energy options, it serves almost entirely to artificially prop up the oil and gas industry. Here's a quick shortcut for how you can tell: According to the Miami Herald, the bill received support from lobbying groups including the Florida Petroleum Association and Florida Natural Gas Association. Also joining to back the bill were the Florida Home Builders Association and the National Utility Contractors Association of Florida, two groups that have a vested interest in keeping cities from banning natural gas hook-ups on new construction projects — one of the primary methods that local legislatures use to shift their cities away from fossil fuels.
While Florida certainly doesn't seem like the most progressive of states, it is home to plenty of cities that are committed to ditching fossil fuels. According to the Sierra Club, three of the state's 10 most populated cities — Orlando, Tallahassee, and St. Petersburg — and 10 Florida cities in total have committed to reaching 100% renewable energy in the coming decades. Officials in Miami have said that the city will likely have to ban natural gas hook-ups in new construction projects in the near future if it plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. That looks like it will be off the table under this new law — which is particularly bad considering Miami is considered one of the biggest cities that is likely to be dramatically affected by climate change.
DeSantis, Florida Republicans, and the state's oil and gas lobby did not come up with this ploy all on their own. They found plenty of inspiration by looking around to other red states, including Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas, which have all passed similar laws.
In what can only be described as a brazen act of cutting off the nose to spite the face, Texas actually prioritized its law that protects oil producers and prohibits banning natural gas hook-ups after that very source of energy failed during this year's catastrophic winter storm. Millions of homes were left without power for days on end, resulting in more than 150 deaths, thanks in large part due to the fact that the Texas electrical grid was not properly weatherized and fossil fuels failed to provide necessary power. Texas's Republican-controlled legislature took things a step further, passing another bill that would take the state's pension funds and school endowments away from banks that divest in fossil fuel investments.
All of these laws would seem to fly in the face of what Republicans claim to believe in. They support local government, unless cities want to shift away from fossil fuels. They believe in the free market, unless the market starts to shift toward renewable energy. The only harm done by reducing reliance on fossil fuels is to the bottom line of gas and oil companies. It just so happens that industry happens to overwhelmingly back Republican politicians. Seems like those politicians may be worried that if fossil fuels are banned, some of their donations may dry up with them.