Commentary: House needs to pass energy bill

A bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would push the United States toward using cleaner energy and cap carbon emissions that cause global warming is set for a vote Friday. Florida's lawmakers should strongly support it.

When it comes to the ill effects of climate change, Florida is one of the nation's most vulnerable states. In a June report, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration outlined what Florida would be in for if no significant action is taken soon to curb the emissions that contribute to global warming:

• Over time, sea-level rise will put 99.6 percent of Monroe County under water; in Miami-Dade, 70 percent would be awash, while 10-22 percent of land would be flooded in 14 other coastal counties. This would destroy real estate worth more than $130 billion.

• Florida's tourism industry will lose $9 billion by 2025 and $167 billion by the end of the century from the loss of beaches and other attractions.

• Sea-level rise will destroy some important infrastructure: two nuclear power plants (Turkey Point being one), three prisons, 68 hospitals, 74 airports, 334 public schools and nearly 20,000 historic structures.

• Gradual warming and rising of the seas will increase hurricanes' intensity, inflicting an estimated $25 billion in damages on Floridians by 2050.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act isn't perfect. Its Democratic architects, Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, have had to do plenty of horse trading to get it this far. But they have kept intact some key elements: a cap-and-trade program with the goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions 15 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and 73 percent by 2050. Funding is provided for businesses to adapt to new technologies to attain the reduction goals through developing low-carbon technologies.

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