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Koch Brothers Continue War on Solar in Sunshine State

With its nickname being “The Sunshine State,” it would make sense for Florida to lead in solar energy in the U.S. But industry opposition and a climate change-denying governor have allowed the state to fall dangerously behind when it comes to harnessing the power of the sun.

The low solar production in Florida has less to do with energy costs, and everything to do with the influence of the dirty energy industry. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Today, solar energy only accounts for 2 percent of the total energy production in Florida, and industry analysts believe that the poor solar production is likely because the state’s average energy costs are about 30 percent below the national average, diminishing the demand for a cheaper, cleaner energy source.

But when you dig past the industry’s talking points and excuses, you’ll find something much more sinister at work.

The low solar production in Florida has less to do with energy costs and everything to do with the influence of the dirty energy industry.

According to existing Florida laws, which are unfairly skewed in favor of electric utilities, consumers are limited in their abilities to install solar panels on their own homes due to the restriction of solar panel equipment leasing in the state. In short, consumers in Florida are legally not allowed to purchase electricity from anyone other than a utility company.

Additionally, Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican legislature have gutted the state’s clean energy programs and eliminated Florida’s renewable energy goals.

Again, it all comes down to money.

Since 2010, the dirty energy industry has poured $12 million and initiatives, including a $1.1 million gift to Gov. Scott. Every single member in the legislature has taken money from the fossil fuel industry, with the 16 leaders averaging about $200,000 apiece. Some of the top donors were Duke Energy, Gulf Power and Koch Industries.

Koch Brothers' Anti-Solar Campaign in Florida

It should come as absolutely no surprise that the Koch brothers are leading the efforts to stifle solar energy in Florida.

When citizens in the state gathered the necessary signatures to get an initiative on the ballot that would repeal Florida’s anti-consumer solar restrictions, the Koch brothers sprang into action to make sure that this initiative was dead on arrival.

According to a report by PR Watch, the Kochs created a new astroturf group, Consumers for Smart Solar, that is working to create a counter-initiative that would actually prohibit consumers and businesses from contracting with solar companies that install solar equipment without charging an upfront fee—the only way that most Florida citizens would be able to afford solar energy.

This ballot initiative is supported by the Florida state government, as Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi is very vocal in her opposition to the citizens’ amendment due to her strong support for the dirty energy industry.

The Kochs and other industry interests were dealt a major blow last week when the Florida Supreme Court approved the Solar Choice Amendment to appear on the 2016 ballot.

Also working against the industry is the fact that 2016 is an election year, meaning Democratic voter turnout will be at an all time high, giving the initiative a very good chance at succeeding.

But even if the Florida fight goes in favor of consumers, the Koch brothers are also fighting against the solar industry in Arizona, Ohio and Kansas.

Again, these are likely to ultimately prove losing battles for the brothers, as 74 percent of American citizens believe that a portion of all electricity generated in the U.S. should come from clean, renewable sources.

The Kochs might wield a lot of power, but they don’t have enough money to fight the will of the 74 percent, or 235 million, Americans.

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At EcoWatch, every day is Earth Day. We don't just report news about the environment—we aim to make the world a better place through our own actions. From conserving water to cutting waste, here are some tips and tricks from our team on living mindfully and sustainably.

Lorraine Chow, reporter

Favorite Product: Dr. Bronner's Castile soap

It's Earth-friendly, lasts for months and can be used as soap, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner and even mouthwash (but I wouldn't recommend that).

Essential Tool: Blender

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Earth Day Tip: Skip the straw

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Essential Tool: My portable thermos

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Earth Day Tip: Get involved

In 2012, researcher Brad Werner ran a computer model and found our best shot at combating climate change was for people to form a mass social movement to demand it. So if you're worried about the environment, reach out to other people in your community and talk about what you can do together to make a difference!

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Essential Tool: Backpack

It's great for carrying your groceries home from the store, and you won't have to use plastic bags. If you have a long shopping list, try a rolling suitcase.

Earth Day Tip: Don't waste water

Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. It can save eight gallons of water a day!

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Favorite Product: Clothes from Patagonia

Patagonia makes a wide range of inspired products and their environmental policies are world class. They use only organic cotton in their clothes, and they even offer trade-ins, recycling and repairs at any time.

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This powerful piece of mind is always ready regardless of storms and travel, for as long as one can tap the sun.

Earth Day Tip: Savor something vegan

There's no nutritional substitute for fresh, unprocessed food, but food science has revolutionized the taste and texture of vegan alternatives. For the pure delight of it, celebrate with Miyoko's Kitchen vegan cheese, Tofurky Italian sausage (30 grams of protein per serving!) and SoDelicious non-dairy dark chocolate truffle frozen dessert made with cashew milk.

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Favorite Product: Living Libations's Everybody Loves the Sunshine

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"Rather than being afraid of the sun, harmonize with it," Living Libations says. Love it!

Essential Tool: My bike

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Earth Day Tip: Start small

Your one "small" action isn't small at all.

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Essential Tool: My paintbrush and set of mineral paints

I found the all natural, biodegradable mineral paints at a local farmers' market in the Sacred Valley of Peru. I used to favor working with acrylic paints until I learned about their high carbon footprint and harmful substances.

Earth Day Tip: Honor Mother Earth

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