Retired US Army officer explains why Florida’s anti-solar bill helps Vladimir Putin

Retired US Army officer explains why Florida’s anti-solar bill helps Vladimir Putin

On Monday, March 7, the Republican-controlled Florida State Senate sent House Bill 741 — which removes green energy incentives for Florida homeowners — to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk for approval. Because MAGA Republicans are dogmatic in their disdain for green energy and love of fossil fuels, DeSantis is almost certain to sign HB 741 into law. But in an op-ed published by the Miami Herald on March 14, Mark Hertling — an Orlando, Florida resident and retired U.S. Army officer — argues that DeSantis should veto HB 741 because it’s the type of bill that helps Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“(DeSantis) is likely to sign HB 741, which would negatively affect the solar industry and eliminate any incentive for individual Floridians to generate their own power at a time when we should be finding ways to expand homegrown energy,” Hertling explains. “To a degree, Florida’s decision to rapidly curtail available and cheaper domestic energy sources gives Putin money in his pockets and leverage over the West.”

Only a fraction of the oil and gas used in the United States has been coming from Russia. So, when President Joe Biden banned Russian oil/gas imports, it was a symbolic way to take a stand against Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. But Western Europe gets a lot of oil from Russia, and Hertling argues that European countries have been much too reliant on Russian oil.

“For those of us who spent most of our professional lives in the U.S. Armed Forces, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not a complete surprise,” Hertling explains. “When I served as the commanding general of the United States Army-Europe, Vladimir Putin’s expansion was something we tracked and reported on daily, given his invasion of Georgia in 2008, his takeover of Crimea and the Donbas in 2014, and his other adventures in Moldova and Azerbaijan. We also understood why the world let Putin get away with it: The Europeans — and to a lesser degree the U.S. — depended on Russian fossil fuel.”

Hertling adds, “In the last three weeks, we have managed to cripple Russia’s economy, which is almost singularly based on its oil and natural gas industry. In the future, many nations, the U.S. included, must find ways to exploit alternative energy sources.”

Hertling goes on to explain why solar panels have been beneficial to Floridians.

“When I retired in Orlando eight years ago,” Hertling notes, “we put solar panels on our new house.… When we put solar panels on our home, our electric bills were cut by two-thirds. With tax exemptions, we paid for the panels in just a few years. And returning power to the grid while we were paying less gave us the knowledge that we were contributing to the community and an improved environment.”

Hertling continues, “In sunny Florida, we always wondered why most of our neighbors didn’t do the same. In all likelihood, HB 741 would significantly reduce the demand for rooftop solar power generation in Florida, taking roughly 1.5 million kilowatt hours of energy offline each year.”

In light of the crisis in Ukraine, Hertling writes, the last thing DeSantis should do is sign HB 741 into law.

“I am not suggesting that HB 741’s proponents support Putin’s criminal actions,” Hertling writes. “I am suggesting that any claim that rooftop solar is regressive — which is a dubious claim, as most Florida rooftop solar users make less than $100,000 a year — is counter-intuitive. Yet impact matters more than intent.… That DeSantis would pick this moment to support this is baffling. If he wants to be on the right side of history, Floridians, and our environment, he must veto HB 741.”

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