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Crist flexes muscle on energy
Backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, he takes a tough stance on greenhouse gases.
By JANET ZINK
Published July 14, 2007
TAMPA - Fresh from a climate change conference in Miami, Gov. Charlie Crist defended his recent moves to curb greenhouse gases, and drew support Friday from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as the two addressed fellow Republicans at a fundraising dinner.
More than 800 people turned out at the downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel for the event that raised more than $1.6-million, reported Jim Greer, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
Crist received a warm reception, despite rumblings among some Florida Republicans that his just-unveiled energy policy conflicts with the GOP's core value of small government.
In brief speeches, U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, a native of Cuba, and Schwarzenegger, who was born in Austria, talked about America as the land of opportunity and the GOP as the party of inclusion.
When it was Crist's turn, he did not shy from his executive orders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, he touted the initiatives, saying Florida has a "beautiful, precious" environment that needs to be protected.
"This should be our issue," he said.
Schwarzenegger praised Crist for taking action on global warming, repeating critical remarks he made in Miami about the leadership vacuum on the issue in the nation's capital.
"Washington is stuck," he said. "There is no action there. It's pitiful."
He also commended Crist, who invited Democrat and environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., to the Miami climate change conference, for making a bipartisan effort.
But Crist's energy initiatives, including an executive order requiring electric utilities to lower their greenhouse gas emissions, has dismayed some fellow Republicans.
State Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville, called the global warming issue "trendy," something that would no longer be a concern in 10 years.
State Rep. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, speaker of the Florida House, said that while he agrees Floridians need to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels for both environmental and geopolitical reasons, he doesn't support Crist's "big government approach."
Crist's initiatives, he said, are likely to dramatically increase energy costs for consumers.
"Anything that makes Florida a more expensive place to live and work isn't good," he said.
Rubio said he instead favors economic incentives and investment in development of new technologies.
"That could become a huge growth industry for the state," Rubio said.
Despite differing philosophies, Rubio said he respects Crist for taking a politically bold step.
"He's confronting the base of the party," Rubio said, adding that there's room among Republicans for opposing viewpoints.
Crist, it seems, is counting on that.
When asked at a news conference before the dinner if he and Schwarzenegger were taking the Republican Party in a new direction, Crist responded: "It would appear that way."