Green Doesn't Mean Sacrificing Lifestyle
MIAMI - Americans do not need to pare back their lifestyles to help protect the global environment but may need to use sugar or orange peel to power their energy-guzzling Hummers and Cigarette boats, Florida's governor said on Tuesday.
Gov. Charlie Crist, who in July signed executive orders setting new limits on greenhouse gas emissions in his state, said he did not believe the American lifestyle was incompatible with the need to address climate change and reduce fossil fuel consumption.
"I don't think they're going to have to change at all. I just think they're going to have to change what they use to power it, like ethanol," said Crist, a Republican who took over Florida's governorship in January from Jeb Bush, the younger brother of President George W. Bush.
"My desire is that we would be able to develop more ethanol production from sugar cane, and frankly from citrus waste as well," he said in a telephone interview from Tallahassee during a Reuters Global Environment summit.
The United States, the world's biggest polluter, has faced criticism abroad for refusing to sign on to the Kyoto climate change agreement, for lax automobile fuel consumption standards and for its penchant for huge sport utility vehicles, trucks, speedboats and other fossil-fuel consuming habits.
Big vehicles like Hummers and Cigarette speed boats are part of the flashy image of the Florida lifestyle projected by TV shows like Miami Vice. And the state's sunshine, beaches and big attractions like Disney World lure some 80 million visitors a year in the $65-billion tourist industry.
Crist's initiative announced in July calls for state utilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2025. It also calls for adoption of California's stricter auto emission standards, which have not been implemented because they require a waiver from the federal government.
In keeping with his view on maintaining lifestyles, Crist, an avid swimmer, has not stopped heating the pool at the governor's mansion. But he did have solar heating installed.
An increasingly vocal champion of environmentalism, Crist has endeared himself to activists and joined California's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, at the forefront of a movement that has U.S. state governments leapfrogging Washington to set their own environmental policies.
Schwarzenegger has suggested states could even sign international climate treaties with foreign countries and Crist said the two states might soon announce some sort of deal with Europe.
Crist has encouraged development of ethanol production in Florida, suggesting the state could use two of its major agricultural products, sugar cane and citrus, to produce the alternative fuel usually made from corn in the United States.
A Florida utility announced plans in July for a plant to convert orange and grapefruit waste to ethanol.
"I think Florida can be such a great leader with ethanol that people can continue to enjoy the lifestyle they're accustomed to but we can do it in concert with a responsible approach," said Crist, citing his own ethanol-powered sport utility vehicle.
"You don't have to necessarily feel like you have to compromise or sacrifice or suffer in order to do good if you can do good and enjoy yourself simultaneously."
(For summit blog: http://summitnotebook.reuters.com/)