MIAMI.- Florida is the “Sunshine State.” At least, that’s how boosters sell us to tourists from all over the world. However, for once, a public relations line is mostly true.
Florida is indeed endowed with an abundance of sun. Unlike in London, New York City, Chicago, or San Francisco–fabulous cities all–you would be hard-pressed to find a person here afflicted with an illness caused by lack of exposure to the sun. Not many people in Florida suffer from seasonal affective disorder (or, SAD, a perfect acronym for a type of depression brought on by light deprivation) or vitamin D deficiency.
Of course, the pr people neglect to mention the other side of the coin: frequent torrential rains, hurricanes, the risk of heat stroke, and melanoma, among other inconveniences. The Mosquito State? That wouldn’t cut it as a tourist lure.
So the Sunshine State it is, and there is a whole of truth in that name even if shills thought it up and they failed to mention certain aspects of our reality. Yes, Florida gets plenty of sun. In fact, according to a Tribune story published in the Miami Herald, St. Petersburg once made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for having 786 straight days of sunshine. Take that, Arizona.
Now all this sunshine should be good for something other than getting a tan. Indeed: With all that sun comes a huge potential for solar power. Yet, we barely use this fantastic resource. That ought to be a crime in a world beset by global warming and in a state with virtually no deposits of dirty fuels, like oil or coal.
Why? Round up the usual suspects: the people who run the state. They include the Republicans who control the politics, the utility companies that make big profits and big campaign contributions to their favorite politicians, and the regulators that utility-friendly politicians appoint. These people don’t just fail to promote the development of solar power, they do everything they can to kill it.
The way the complex of interests vested in dirty power and monopoly control of utilities deals with the solar power industry resembles the way drug gangs and the Mafia deal with their competitors. The difference is that the Mafia and the maras don’t get to make the rules, so the only way they can protect their turf is through intimidation and murder. It’s a whole different story when it comes to Big Power and their political toadies. Together, they can make the rules, and they do. They destroy the competition by outlawing it. The beauty of it is that it’s all legal. Mafiosi and gangbangers almost always end up in prison. Florida politicos and utility CEOs are pillars of the community.
From the Tribune/Herald story cited above:
“Florida is one of several states, mostly in the Southeast, that combine copious sunshine with extensive rules designed to block its use by homeowners to generate power.”
The Tribune story goes on to identify the common thread in all these cases:”…opposition from utilities grown nervous by the rapid encroachment of solar firms on their business.” Parenthetically, that’s an interesting choice of words. According to the dictionary, to encroach is “to enter by gradual steps or by stealth into the possessions or rights of another.” That is called a capital offense in the criminal underworld. In capitalist theory, it’s called competition, the lifeblood of the system. Or do the FPLs of this world feel they are entitled to a monopoly on the generation of power, the venerated free market be damned? That looks like it may be the case.
Whatever the underlying psychology or rationale, it amounts to perversity in pure form. In Florida, as in other sunny states plagued by reactionary Republican control, profit and the politicians profit buys persistently prevail over the public interest, local and global.
It’s beyond absurd that a place like Germany–hardly a country anyone would associate with sunshine–is developing solar power big-time while Florida is doing its best to make sure it doesn’t happen here.
Personally, I am shocked and outraged but not surprised. Florida is an ideal playground for the rich and famous–as well as for the filthy rich and infamous. The state has the third most regressive tax system in the country. As in, the rich pay less in taxes and the middle class pays more here than in 47 of the other 49 states. Why should Big Power be left off the gravy train for the sake of such trivialities as fair competition, consumer choice, clean energy and saving the planet?