August 2007

Message from the Director:
Florida Could Be Bold and Take Leadership in Transportation

Photo of James Fenton.
FSEC Director, James Fenton

Florida has positioned itself for leadership by taking steps to improve the state’s energy policies as well as energy use and efficiency with Governor Crist’s recent Climate Change Summit and Executive Orders. I was pleased to participate in panels at the Summit, discussing solar energy and energy efficiency.  Also attending the Summit were Philip Fairey, FSEC Deputy Director and Bob Reedy, Director of the Solar Energy Division. The excitement and enthusiasm for what the Governor was doing ran throughout the meeting.

A few weeks before the Governor’s Climate Change Summit, Florida Today proposed that energy policy actions must come from the federal government (in its editorial entitled “Break America’s Chains”).  Although their assessment of federal government actions is exactly correct, I replied in a guest editorial that I feel state government can take significant steps in its energy policy to accomplish similar results. Following are some thoughts from the editorial:

Florida does not have to wait for Washington to take action! While it is true that the federal government holds the keys to federal CAFE standards (see Editor’s note below), that does not mean we cannot act – both individually and as a state.  Here are some state actions that can be accomplished now to directly affect our transportation energy use:

  1. Require state and local government vehicle fleets to use hybrid vehicles or high-efficiency vehicles.
  2. Create a new vehicle sales tax to favor vehicles that get high miles per gallon, such as more than 40 mpg. This could change the decision-making process for many new car buyers.
  3. Reward communities that have carefully planned public-transit designs with grants to support public transit, be it buses or commuter trains.
  4. Provide a state-level, tax-neutral daily charge on rental cars in Florida that gives preference to higher-efficiency rental cars. 
  5. Increase the percentage of Highway Trust fund dollars for public transit from today’s rate of 17 percent to a maximum of 22 percent in 10 years.

While the “Sunshine State” may be trying to catch up to 23 other states in building energy efficient homes and implementing solar energy, Florida could be bold and take leadership in transportation energy policy. Why should we wait for Congress and President Bush to enact energy policy for transportation? 
Let's stop looking around for people to blame and start doing things to make our homes and our vehicles more energy-efficient.  We don't need to wait for the federal government to do this for us.  We hold the keys and can do it for ourselves if we really want.

Visit the Florida Solar Energy Center’s Web site,, to read about our ongoing research in these areas: Advanced Energy Research, encompassing hydrogen, fuel cell and alternative fuels research and development; Buildings Research, including energy efficiency strategies for homes and commercial buildings and virtually every aspect of building science; Solar Energy Research, composed of photovoltaics for energy generation and solar thermal for heating applications.  The Energy Education office provides K-12 programs for students and teachers and administers the SunSmart Schools program.  The Solar Research Library houses an extensive collection of renewable energy information. Their materials are available to the public for reference use on-site or through interlibrary loan.

Visit the consumer section of our Web site for ways to start saving energy today.

Signature of James M. Fenton

I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy.  What a source of power!  I hope we don’t have to wait till oil and coal run out before we tackle that.
~~Thomas Edison, 1931

Editor’s Note:
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) is the average fuel economy, in miles per gallon, of a manufacturer’s fleet of passenger cars or light trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,500 lbs. or less, manufactured for sale in the United States, for any given model year. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible for establishing the CAFE standards.

Congress specified that CAFE standards must be set at the “maximum feasible level,” considering these four factors:

(1) Technological feasibility;
(2) Economic practicability;
(3) Effect of other standards on fuel economy; and
(4) Need of the nation to conserve energy