Political Hay

Orange Blossom Madness

Florida -- where a Democrat is a Democrat, and the new Republican governor is too.

By 7.25.07

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The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that a large cloud of dust containing such delicacies as man-made sulfates, smog, industrial fumes, carbon grit, and nitrates is crossing the Pacific from Asia and aims to set up over California.

Journal science writer Robert Lee Holtz says these "rivers of polluted air can be wider than the Amazon and deeper than the Grand Canyon." He says on some days one third of the air over Los Angeles and San Francisco "can be traced directly to Asia."

With this news fresh in our minds, it's a good time to reflect on the sheer futility of American governors, and the federals, adopting laws and regulations restricting energy use in the name of saving us from global warming. Even if it were established that continued warming of our planet would lead to a list of horribles as harsh as God visited on Old Pharaoh -- and the evidence for this has to be believed to be seen -- or that somehow men could decide what the Earth's temperature ought to be and somehow bring that temperature about -- hubris gone to town -- there would still be the fact that the folks running the expanding economies of China and India are not about to give up their shot at the good life in order to make Western environmentalists happy. These countries will soon be the world's major polluters, including the biggest producers of greenhouse gasses.

TAS reported Monday ("Republican Governors Who Wilt") that Republican governors in Minnesota and South Carolina have gone over to the dark side on this issue, adopting policies -- hatched by environmentalists but with business types called in as unwitting perfumers -- that restrict energy use in the name of saving us from the dreaded CO2.

These policies are anti-freedom, anti-intellectual, and a threat to these state's economies. But interest in them has metastasized across the land. The latest Republican governor to join the greenhouse gasbag bandwagon is Florida's Charlie Crist. Charlie is the RINO's RINO, who prefers and deserves the title of "populist."

After a two-day dog and pony show in Miami -- July 12 and 13 -- grandiosely referred to as a climate change summit -- wherein activists were palmed off as experts, Crist issued three executive orders that begin the process of shifting decisions in Florida about how much energy to use and what kind from the private sector, where they belong, to politicians and bureaucrats, where extreme enviros and other leftie nutters pushing global warming hysteria want them to be. In this way lefties can make the economy their play toy, as the culture has been for them for decades. Global warming is their ticket to ride, and humbugs like Crist are enabling them.

The orders, which would lead to government micro-management of fuel choices and fuel use by Florida utilities and would strap Florida with California's strict auto-emissions standards, require a certain amount of rule making and some legislation to implement. So no one know yet knows how much will be mandatory, how much determined by incentives. No one, least of all Crist, knows how much this will cost.

The "experts" Charlie enlisted for his Miami pep rally -- aka the climate change summit -- included such exotics as Robert Kennedy, Jr., Franklin D. Roosevelt, IV, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and some EU greenies from Germany and the U.K. Charlie also salted the podium with enough gullible and/or conniving business executives to give the appearance that this wasn't a total Sierra Club party.

Kennedy has demonstrated his practical and even-handed approach on the question of climate change by describing politicians who don't totally accept the global warming hysterics' worldview and seek to adopt their entire action agenda immediately as "traitors." Kennedy has devoted so much time to this issue that it's cut into the amount of time he has left over for accusing George W. Bush of stealing the 2004 election. Pretty odd policy advisor for a Republican, but there it is.

And Junior isn't the oddest of Crist's new friends. Charlie found time to hang out this spring with rocker Sheryl Crow and movie producer Laurie David at a climate change rally in Gainesville. Many TAS readers remember that despite the circles she travels in, Crow's recommendation for making the world better is for all of us to use less toilet paper. Laurie produced Al Gore's celluloid screed, An Inconvenient Truth.

Did I mention that Crist is a Republican?

The other nominal Republican on the stage with Crist during the recent "summit" was The Terminator. Ahnuld's job at the climate change pep rally was to attract cameras and to deliver such astute scientific analysis as, "We have to say hasta la vista, Baby, to greenhouse gasses."

Great line for a movie trailer, but where's the science? Every indication is that Arnold enjoyed himself in Florida. The "summit" got him out of California, where no one takes him seriously.

So Charlie got his cameras, and issued his orders under their comforting (to him) glow. The orders aren't likely to produce anything worthwhile in Florida, and will almost certainly tangle the feet of those in the private sector attempting to deliver an energy-efficient economy. There are, of course, reasons to save energy that have nothing to do with global warming. Energy independence is a critical issue for America, though it was hardly mentioned during Charlie's two-day global warming seance. And Florida's development and construction industries were already moving toward energy-efficient buildings. The market would have done with the job without Charlie's grandstanding and without his buttinsky and transparently political executive orders.

Florida's best hope is that in this instance, which is often the case with Crist, he doesn't really mean it. That's he's just posing, angling for political points by appearing to save Florida from a horrendous problem. And he doesn't really mean to force anything that would further damage Florida's economy, which is already wobbling from high property taxes, high property insurance premiums, and a weak housing market.

Crist has been in the public eye, ear, nose, and throat since 1992 when he won a seat in the Florida senate from St. Petersburg. He was later elected Florida commissioner of education and then attorney general before being elected governor in 2006. During this meteoric career, Charlie's ratio of showboating and press releases to accomplishment has been impressive, even for a Florida politician.

It's a barely concealed secret that Crist would like very much to be a vice-presidential candidate in 2008. This might appear to be an ambitious goal for a rookie governor not well known nationally. But those of us who've known Charlie from his days as a brash but lightweight state senator find it hard to believe he now lives in the statehouse. Charlie may be a humbug, but clearly a majority of voters haven't noticed, as he keeps winning elections.

This last ambition may elude Crist though, as it appears increasingly unlikely that Al Gore will run.

Did I mention that Crist is a Republican?

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.