TALLAHASSEE — As speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in 2008, Marco Rubio helped pass a sweeping energy bill — backed by a number of environmentalists — that seemed to reflect a bipartisan interest in renewable energy, climate change and the environment.
Earlier this month, Rubio, now a U.S. senator from Florida and a Republican presidential candidate, presented a national energy plan that demonstrated little interest in those same goals.
Rubio called for leveraging the nation’s coal reserves to create prosperity, promised to shelve federal regulations that reduce carbon emissions from power plants, and conspicuously avoided saying the words “climate change.”
That left some Florida environmental advocates pining for the Rubio of old.
“From my perspective Marco Rubio completely switched gears and went from someone who looked for positive solutions that created jobs and developed smart technology to someone whose head is in the sand about the reality of rising sea levels that are already impacting his home state,” said Susan Glickman, an environmental advocate who lobbied for the 2008 bill.
Rubio’s positioning on environmental issues has inarguably changed as he evolved from local Republican legislator to high-profile U.S. senator and, now, presidential candidate. But the shift has in many ways been more about political framing than substance.
As his loyalists hasten to point out now, the arguments for Rubio’s seemingly environment-friendly proposals during his days in state government were explicitly about economic development; he was, they say, pro-environment to the extent that it meant being pro-business.
In 2007, Rubio told his chamber’s members that Florida had the opportunity to pursue “bold energy policies,” not just for the environment “but because people can make money at doing it.”
“This nation and ultimately the world is headed for an emissions tax and energy diversification,” Rubio told the Legislature. “Those changes will require technological advances that make those measures cost effective. The demand for such advances will create an industry to meet it. Florida should become the Silicon Valley of that industry.”
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