Florida business owners take on DC to demand clean energy independence

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[image-1]Two of the business owners, Kevin and Russell Otway of Veterans Energy Solutions LLC in Miami, had a chance to tell their Senators how they guarded oil rigs over seas during their service in the Navy, and came home to start their business to honor their service and the service of fellow Iraq War Veterans. The brothers described to Senators LeMieux and Nelson how comprehensive clean energy policies would allow us to spend that billion dollars a day for foreign oil here at home on clean energy sources, creating new jobs and building new industries which will ultimately make us more secure and let us produce our own energy, instead of sending it overseas to unfriendly governments.

They spoke of the high volume of quality applications they receive from graduating college students and veterans; they believe that comprehensive energy legislation would bring certainty to the market place and signal investors, allowing the Otways and others like them to expand their businesses, bringing more jobs to Floridians.

In a very constructive meeting with Senator LeMieux, Helda Rodriguez, of Nova Charge LLC in Tampa, spoke about the potential for business small and large to drive the economy with the support of comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. She explained that the legislation would allow new small businesses to spring up and create new good paying jobs in Florida that could not be outsourced to India and China. She spoke of the potential for Florida and the nation to take a leadership role in the emerging global clean energy economy and the reality that we are currently losing that race to China.

Ms. Rodriguez also addressed a concern Senator LeMieux expressed: that such legislation would raise rates for fixed income Floridians. Ms. Rodriguez shared a personal story about her years as a volunteer with Meals on Wheels in Tampa, and watching firsthand the group lose large numbers of volunteers and routes because people could not afford the fuel to drive their routes whenever gas prices increased. “I have a lot of experience working with fixed income families in Florida and the truth is that they need certainty when they plan their budgets; as long as we are dependent on foreign oil we will never be able to provide them with that certainty,” Rodriguez said to the Senator. “The fluctuating costs of that dependency are what we really cannot afford to charge fixed income Floridians.” A very timely message as the cost of gas again risen to above $3.00 a gallon in Florida, and volunteers to drive are again hard to come by. [image-2]

Mo Eppley, of MityMo Design in St. Petersburg, detailed to Senators Nelson and LeMieux how comprehensive clean energy and climate policy is important to Florida’s small businesses because it will result in lower energy bills for businesses. She explained that after payroll, energy costs are the largest expense for every business owner. Mo also told both Senators that she was there not just to speak for herself, but that she represented thousands of small business owners like herself in Florida and the thousands of constituents who had taken the time to post a video on The Wall. She said that in the face of over 12% unemployment in Florida, it would be hard not to support policy that would bring 78,000 jobs to the Sunshine State and revive the state’s struggling construction industry.

For me the trip was inspirational; it was refreshing to experience the passion of a group of ordinary citizens willing to invest their energy and time toward helping Florida and the nation recover from an economic downturn while moving toward energy independence. At a time in which Washington, D.C. is gridlocked on so many issues, the bipartisan effort for energy and climate legislation represents a true bright spot in addressing a critical issue on which Floridians want our leaders to act. Perhaps this was my Mr. Smith Goes to Washington moment.

Earlier this month, thousands of Floridians picked up the phone and called Senator George LeMieux to show their support for comprehensive energy legislation. I want to thank all of you who “answered the call” to have your voices heard by your Senators. Momentum is building.

I had the honor last week of accompanying a group of Floridians on a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with our Senators Bill Nelson and George LeMieux.  The group was comprised of four Florida business owners who helped us make calls and put their voices up on the Repower America Wall.

In addition to being treated to beautiful spring weather and a blanket of blossoming pear trees across the Hill, we had a chance to sit down for meetings at Senate offices and meet with Floridian Carol Browner, the 1st Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, along with Jon Carson from the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Most importantly, however, the group met with Senators LeMieux and Nelson on Capitol Hill to share views of everyday Floridians and give them a chance to tell their stories about the benefits of clean energy and climate legislation for every Florida resident. The group introduced to the Senators the concept of The Wall as well as the state and national advertising that has been created from its content to amplify the voices of grassroots constituents.

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