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They’ve got sunshine in their nickname, but the reactionaries in Florida can’t seem to figure out that solar could be the next big boom industry in the state.

Witness the inane ramblings of Rep. Ritch Workman (R-Utility). According to The Tampa Bay Times, there’s a movement afoot to put before the voters a constitutional amendment that would give tax breaks to businesses that install solar panels on their roofs.

But Workman, chairman of the Florida House Finance and Tax Committee, has decided he’s having none of that whole “let the voters decide” stuff (maybe he, like his governor, is afraid the WRONG people will vote). He has planted himself squarely in the way because, well, I have no earthly idea. Here’s what he had to say (as reported by the Times):

I just don’t see the need to continue to expand the incentives and underwriting of solar. Solar is coming a long way and eventually it’s going to be able to stand on its own two feet. But right now it doesn’t.
Ah. So subsidies for traditional fuel sources, in the form of guaranteed profits for the utilities: Good. But small-business tax breaks (wait, I thought Republicans supported tax breaks for small businesses? I’m so confused) to install solar panels on their roofs? Bad because…….yeah, I still have no idea.

Workman’s intransigence is rightly being criticized by people who understand that solar power in Florida is a no brainer, given its irradiance levels. And Workman, reacting like a mature person reliving his “terrible twos,” had this to say to his critics:

They’re making me dig my heels in because they’re blowing me up. I’m now Mr. Anti-Solar and it’s ridiculous because the minute they are viable, my roof is going to be covered with them.
Now he’s moved on to the “some of my best friends are solar panels” portion of the evening. If Workman really wanted to install solar on his roof, he could do so — viably — right now, without the taxpayers ponying up a dime.

As more and more financing options become available and overall prices for systems plummet, it’s entirely possible Workman could get a system for a zero-down lease, make a low monthly payment and partially free himself from the yoke of utility oppression.

But maybe he doesn’t want to free himself. According to the Times:

The State’s three largest electric companies have spent nearly $3 million on campaign contributions this election cycle alone — including $2.5 million from Florida Power & Light, which competes with the solar industry by offering its own solar plants. TECO Energy has spent $754,000 and Duke Energy has given $390,000.
Let’s leave aside, for the moment, that the math of the Tampa Times is a bit off: According to my calculator, the amount of money the utilities have bribed legislators like Workman with is nearly $4 million, ($3.64 million, to be exact). Whatever the number, that’s a hell of a lot of scratch to give to politicians in one election cycle. I’ve been an avid political junkie for years, and it would certainly not crazy to think that such money would give the utilities a certain outsized influence on Workman’s votes on energy-related issues.

But don’t worry about this “appearance” of corruption. According to Supreme Court Chief Justice John “Money = Speech” Roberts, it’s not corruption unless they give him money explicitly to vote on specific legislation. Otherwise, he’s just showing gratitude to his supporters.

And Workman insists he is not — repeat not — being a shill for the utility giants, so there. Yeah, and if you believe that, I’ve got some beachfront property to sell you in Orlando.

John Porter, the former mayor of Cape Canaveral and the managing partner of the solar energy company CleanFootprint, summed it up best:

Nothing polls over 90% (among voters), but solar does. If the people of Florida are given a choice in this issue, they are going to vote yes. … They understand how valuable it is to their air, their water and to the future of Florida. Instead, everybody here is really interested in keeping the status quo in place, which is the stranglehold of these large utilities. It’s really almost criminal, and we need to make a change.
Sadly, stupidity and pigheadedness are not criminal. And thanks to Workman’s ample displays of both, Florida, with all its sunshine, will not get the chance to vote affirmatively for solar.

That’s a damn shame.

UPDATE: I engaged with this guy on Twitter (@supersolarwonk), and he had the AUDACITY to say Florida didn't have enough sunlight to support solar. OMG, the stupid! It burns!

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