tampabay.com

Bulbs light up forum on energy

Compact fluorescents top a list of revisited conservation ideas.

By JANET ZINK
Published April 11, 2007


TAMPA - Compact fluorescent light bulbs took center stage at a forum on energy conservation Tuesday hosted by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa.

Castor brought together city and county leaders to brainstorm ways to conserve energy, protect the environment and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

"There's no reason we should be going to war overseas for oil under Middle East sands," Castor said.

Discussion ranged from personal steps individuals can take to save energy to the larger collective decisions about land use and government initiatives to encourage environmentally friendly construction.

At least five speakers talked about the compact fluorescent light bulbs. One was Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, who said she and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker will tape a public service announcement recommending residents make the switch from incandescent bulbs.

Iorio said she could anticipate the likely joke: "How many mayors does it take to screw in a light bulb?"

Laughs aside, Iorio said the bulbs go a long way toward energy conservation. According to the Sierra Club, if every household in the U.S. replaced one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, it would prevent pollution equal to removing 1-million cars from the road.

Responsibility for protecting the environment falls not just with individuals, Iorio said. Local governments also need to work toward developing a mass transit system to get cars off the road. That requires focusing development in urban areas, she said.

"Don't put it out where it's going to destroy the wetlands. Don't put it out where people will have longer and longer commutes," she said.

The Hillsborough County Commission is now updating its comprehensive plan.

Bob Hunter, executive director of the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission, said his group has recommended amendments to the plan that would direct development to urban areas.

But county commissioners rejected that idea, he said.

Hunter praised Commissioner Rose Ferlita for persuading her colleagues to at least discuss the concept at a workshop on the comprehensive plan scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today at County Center. But he urged residents to contact commissioners to voice opposition to sprawl.

"Please pay attention to what's happening," he said, pounding on the podium.

Hunter also criticized the Florida Department of Transportation for its plans to build a major highway through undeveloped land in the center of the state, and the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority's proposed beltway through rural Hillsborough County.

Those roads will simply promote sprawl, he said.

"It will not be a sustainable Florida," he said. "Is that what we want?"

Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena pledged to push for local ordinances that would encourage environmentally friendly buildings in Tampa, and asked Iorio, Ferlita and fellow council member Mary Mulhern, who attended the forum, to do the same.

"Collectively, we can do this," Saul-Sena said, waving a listing of similar laws from other cities, counties and states. "It's being done all over the country."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or 813 226-3401.