Neither Sink nor McCollum endorse Crist climate goals

With CFO Alex Sink and Attorney General Bill McCollum ahead early as the leading candidates for governor, neither is being specific on whether they would keep the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals put in place by Gov. Charlie Crist.

Crist in 2007 signed executive orders establishing goals for the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2017 and further reductions through 2050. He also required utilities to produce more electricity from renewable sources, more fuel-efficient cars and more energy-efficient appliances.

But his goals have been thwarted by the Republican-controlled Legislature, which required approval of his proposed requirements on utilities and car dealers. Neither passed in the session which ended in May, shortly before Crist announced he would seek a U.S. Senate seat in 2010.

With Sink and McCollum lining up to replace him, neither say they would throw out the governor’s goals — nor would they specifically support them. But Sink, a Democrat, said she thinks Florida should have some goals.

“I’m generally supportive of reducing our production of greenhouse gases,” she said in May. “But as to the specific numbers and thinking it out, we have to be mindful of the cost. But yes as a general rule we ought to be thinking in Florida about doing everything we can look into to reduce greenhouse gases.”

McCollum, after the May 27 Cabinet meeting and again this week, declined to answer whether he would support the governor’s goals.

“I’m not going to get into what I would or would not do on a specific matter,” he said. “That would not be appropriate for me to do.”

But McCollum, who during a 2007 climate workshop described himself as a climate change change skeptic, did say last week he doesn’t have any doubt that global warming is occurring.

“I don’t doubt that for a minute,” he said. “But I do have questions with regard to the economics of some of the proposals like the cap and trade proposal Washington has been debating.”

Associated Industries of Florida hopes the next governor — whether its Sink or McCollum — will abandon the Crist energy goals, said Barney Bishop, AIF’s president and chief executive officer.

He said having the goals won’t make Florida’s air any cleaner. He said his group supports addressing climate change and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at the national and international level.

“I think the good news is that Governor Crist’s goals are just that — goals, and his goals alone,” Bishop said. “The Legislature doesn’t share in that because of concerns about the cost.”

Jerry Karnas, Florida climate project director for the Environmental Defense Fund, said Sink has clearly been the most supportive of reducing greenhouse gas emissions because of policies she has carried out.

But McCollum also could be supportive by emphasizing the green-energy benefits of energy independence and economic development, Karnas said. But he added that keeping the Crist goals is critical.

“If the next governor were to reverse course and abandon the move toward strict emissions limits and targets, that would be a pretty disastrous move,” Karnas said. “It would send a terrible signal to the nascent renewable energy market. It would really shut Florida down for business.”

McCollum and Sink are among 13 candidates who have filed to run for governor.

(Photos are from the candidates government Web sites. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Florida . Do not redistribute without permission.)