The Florida Department of Agriculture’s Office of Energy will host its 2019 Florida Energy and Climate Summit in Tampa Sept. 4-6, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced Thursday.
Fried – the lone Democrat on the Florida Cabinet – was at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority headquarters to ride one of the agency’s electric buses.
“No state in America is more vulnerable to the intensifying effects of climate change than Florida. Reducing emissions through cutting-edge technologies and energy efficiency is a key part of addressing our climate crisis,” Fried said.
“PSTA’s zero-emission, all-electric buses are an example of the innovative, forward-thinking initiatives we need to make our sustainable future a reality. Together with our Office of Energy, these regional and local efforts will influence the next generation of Florida’s climate and energy.”
Fried’s emphasis on climate change as a statewide elected official is a departure from recent years. In 2014, then-Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican, acknowledged the existence of climate change but said “I don’t know” when asked how much he thought human-related activity – such as the burning of fossil fuels – contributed to it.
And GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis has tackled the issue head on, creating positions of Chief Resilience Officer and Chief Science Officer for the state, and an Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency. But he too has punted when asked whether he thinks climate change is at least partly caused by human activity.
The energy and climate summit will feature leading experts on climate change, sea level rise, energy efficiency, agricultural impacts, renewable energy and other energy-related innovations.
Fried made the announcement at the Pinellas agency and not at the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority in Tampa because PSTA has added several electric buses to its fleet. HART is eyeing them, but hasn’t made as much progress.
PSTA’s electric buses have been purchased mostly through No-Lo grants from the Federal Transit Administration. No-Lo stands for no or low emission and are available for agencies to purchase energy efficient buses. The agency has its own zero-emission vehicle program.
PSTA CEO Brad Miller, PSTA Board Chair/Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, Democratic Reps. Jennifer Webb and Wengay Newton and Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson joined Fried in her announcement and each touted the benefits of electric buses and emphasized the importance of sustainability initiatives to combat climate change.
Fried made several stops in Pinellas County Thursday to discuss a variety of topics including childhood nutrition through summer meal programs and a rash of credit card skimmers found at local gas stations. Fried’s office is working to identify criminal groups behind a new trend of bluetooth-enabled skimmers and break up those rings.
During her stop she recommended consumers use credit cards at the pump and not debit cards, because victims are more likely to be reimbursed if their credit card information is compromised.