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Commentary

New energy plan for Florida, nation is critical

Special To The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 05:52 PM

Climate change is in part a result of a natural cycle of nature but also with a substantial assist from mankind. We can't do much about Mother Nature, but we can do lots of other things that may slow the process. We desperately need an energy plan that not only encourages production of cleaner energy that does not add further to the warming of our planet but a plan that also encourages conservation. We must reduce the burning of fossil fuels and the spewing of carbon dioxide that adds to the greenhouse effect that is making our planet warmer.

We should, and can, through conservation, reduce the amount of energy we use. All of us need to be a part of the effort. Everyone should do their fair share. For example, turning our thermostats up on hot days and down a touch on cold days will make a difference. Wearing a little extra clothing in winter and fewer clothes in summer is not too difficult a task.

We can increase fuel economy standards, and in the process thousands of engineers and scientists can be given meaningful jobs that help our economy. The automobile companies have already indicated they are up to the challenge. This will not only reduce fossil fuel use, it will save consumers money by giving them more bang for the buck.

Another very important element in any credible energy plan is the development of alternative sources of energy: wind, solar, nuclear and natural gas. We have a great deal of natural gas in the United States, and it will in time help us substantially reduce the use of coal and oil. In the process, the United States will move away from our dependence on foreign oil from unstable regions in the world. This also makes good sense from the standpoint of national security.

There's a lot riding on our ability to implement an energy plan that addresses the problems we will continue to face. In the meantime, the melting of Arctic ice and glaciers that provide water for half our planet continues, and that creates enormous problems, especially in the undeveloped areas of the world. We must reduce the burning of fossil fuels, and America must lead the way.

We have recently seen an increase in the intensity of storms that cause such bad beach erosion and create storm surges that destroy properties and place so many lives at risk. Hurricane Sandy's devastation should remain forever etched in our minds. Mankind's significant contribution to climate change may be doubted by a few, but it is for real and we have a profound responsibility to do everything possible to slow the process — not only for ourselves but for future generations as well.

In the meantime, we also need to adapt to the dangers created by increasingly vicious storms.

We need to stop encouraging development through government subsidies, in storm-prone vulnerable areas. We cannot prevent development, but we should and can say to those developing, "Do it on your own nickel and not the American taxpayers."

Fortunately, there is an existing law, the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA), which prevents subsidies, including federal flood insurance, on undeveloped barrier lands along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, including 677,334 acres in Florida. It was initially opposed by many well-funded special interests, but the common-sense approach Congress took in passing the act was not only a tribute to common sense but a fine example of Democrats and Republicans working together to achieve success. I believe that will happen again because there is no other choice.

Coastal barriers protect the wetlands that play such an important role in our economy because they are spawning grounds for fish and shellfish. These valuable natural resources also provide vital habitat areas for wildlife of all kinds and are helpful in reducing the impact of flooding. If wetlands had not been destroyed, Hurricane Katrina would not have destroyed much of New Orleans.

As Ronald Reagan said 30 years ago when he signed the Evans-Chafee bill: "It is a classic example of environmental legislation that is a triumph for natural resource conservation and federal fiscal responsibility."


Tom Evans is a former member of Congress from Delaware. With Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island, he co-authored the first Coastal Barrier Resources Act, which was signed into law by President Reagan in 1982. Evans serves on the board of the Florida Wildlife Federation and is active in the Smarter, Safer Florida Coalition, which advocates for reform of insurance programs that promote subsidized development in flood-prone areas.

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