By Michael Dobson

Celebrating the defeat of Amendment 1 by Florida’s Renewable advocates  is  understandable, well deserved, and not  prematurely at the expense of  missing  the broader  meaning of what the electorate said on November 8, 2016.

Amendment 1, its proponents, and its ultimate defeat, provides lessons not only to  investor owned utilities, but also to the renewable energy supporters; lessons which  should caution both about the future. The renewable energy community has always suffered from a lack of access to  financial resources  or funding needed  to fight and win against an entrenched  political juggernaut like the regulated private utility industry. That entrenchment stems from the fact that,  as a group, the investor owned utility lobby  has been around for nearly 100 years. Their key lobbying organizations are  the American Public Power Association (APPA) which was founded in 1940 and the  Edison Electric Institute (EEI) which was organized  in 1933. Consequently, for nearly  a century  they have been lining the coffers of  political parties, individual campaigns and have amassed tremendous political power nationally as a result.  Not only has the renewable energy community historically been unable to compete in that arena where money equal power, but it has often had difficulty speaking with one voice. That difficulty has often stemmed from disagreements about the policy proscriptions that should be pursued by the industry and the fact that different policy proscriptions are needed for differing sources of renewable energy. For instance, the same policy proscriptions of  solar, are not the same ones for say…wind, geothermal, wave energy  or for supporters of biomass.

Because Amendment 1  aimed its animus  toward solar exclusively, and not renewable energy at large, It aided and abetted the renewable energy community and its supporters into organizing in ways that have not been achieved before. However, along with the win by renewable energy enthusiast on November 8, was a back drop of Trumpism, which we still struggle to understand at this point. What the utility industry now knows is that if the average voter gets to weigh in with a statewide ballot initiative, solar wins. Now, one can certainly argue that  because of the reported, and roundly agreed upon  disingenuous nature of the utility industries  overall strategy, voters were  reminded why they mistrust utilities, and revolted against Amendment 1. However, it could also be argued  that our Floridacana romanticism about the “sunshine” state,  exposed solar energy to be the untouchable  third rail in our energy debate, especially when you seek to deny it.

Connecting these realities with Washington, we can expect that the Trump administration will certainly dismantle many of the gains that have been made over  climate policy over the last  8 years. However, how that  dismantling will affect renewable energy policy itself,  and to what degree,  remains a question mark. If Mr. Trump is not an ideologue and is truly pragmatic, the answer to the latter may rest upon  how well the renewable energy community continue to trumpet its improving cost competitiveness, and better describe what will be its long term impact specific to adding new jobs to help grow our economy. So, the federal government through the Federal Energy Regulations Commission (FERC), working with state counterparts such as Florida Public Service Commission(PSC), could help the business side of the industry in such a way to allow the investor owned utilities to  make marginal capitulations to a public, which they now recognize wants more solar energy. Frankly, it would be smart business to ward off a frontal assault from a full throated ballot initiative from the renewable energy community, which could come in the near future. That would be a fight that utilities now know that they will lose.

Further, although some are taking a wait and see approach and some simply bracing for the worst  regarding what a President Elect Trumps administration will mean to renewable energy in practice, the answer may lay in the fact that Mr. Trump is a businessman. In other words, with respect to renewable energy, the view may be that “If it does not make money, then it does not make sense.”  Is it disconcerting that Mr. Trump has tapped  Myron Ebell to lead the transition of  the Environmental Protection Agency, who is a climate change denier and no supporter of renewable energy? Yes. However, this is a president who  is guided by things like assets, liabilities, return on investment, present value and net future value, as well as cost benefit. Mr. Trump  has shown that he is the ultimate arbiter of all things  Trump, so in the end, only he will decide; and  he is looking for a good deal for the American people. Moving forward, we can certainly expect  a fight in congress, as renewable energy advocates will not relent. However, those fights, must now more than ever before,  trumpet  renewable energy as good business. Policymakers must know that renewable energy projects, cleantech innovations, and manufacturing is  good business;  with sustain economic returns, which does not overburden taxpayers when regulations are better structured to encourage their  inclusion. To that point, a healthy discussion about the regulatory scheme that has hampered the industry as it has become more cost competitive is key.

It’s also a fight that any Florida  GOP candidate running statewide in 2018 would not want. Such a fight in Florida on the 2018 ballot would certainly be a disruptor for an election which will likely  include Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for Governor and most likely Governor Rick Scott for U.S Senator. Neither the former, nor the  latter  could be called cheer leaders for  renewable energy expansion in Florida by large scale  independent power producers. However, they have allowed some small concessions for the small businesses that install solar, while  also incrementally  taken those same concessions back . As both leaders  have the legislative sessions of 2017 and 2018 to rectify that past, It would certainly muddy the road to an election victory, if the renewable energy community posts a valid ballot initiative.  Therefore,  it is wiser and cheaper  for all concerned to avoid that fight, and for both sides to digest what the results from Amendment 1 really meant.  That may include pushing the reset button on talks between the renewable energy community, utilities  and our policymakers. In Florida, the voters have certainly stated their wills.

Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based  lobbyist, Founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association (FREPA),Founder/ President of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), and a writer/blogger on politics and public policy. Michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@talkingfloridapolitics.com

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Live by the poll and you will surely die by the poll.

The 2016 U.S. presidential campaign polls were wrong, and ultimately head faked the world, here is why. First, there is no way in which pollsters could have gotten the truth from voters who had difficulty facing such a truth themselves. How could voters tell pollsters that, against some core lessons of their upbringing and contrary to all they’ve been taught about decent behavior, they were going to vote for Donald J. Trump? Decent people in polite society will not admit to abetting demonstrated   gender bias, racial bias, xenophobia or being indifferent to vulgarity aimed at women or minority groups. That is not what people in polite society would ever admit to, and they certainly will not have such a confessional with a pollster. Further, polls, as the tools there are, cannot measure what is unspoken or unasked.

Secondly, pollsters are number crunchers, skilled in the science of quantitative modeling, but not divining the mysterious power of celebrity. Such is scientifically   unquantifiable and without daily examples  in the political arena, accept for our experiences with outliers like former Governor Jessie “ the body” Ventura, former Senator Fred Thompson, former congressman Sonny Bono, comedian/ writer/actor U.S. Senator Al Franken and a few others in our elective history. Mr. Trumps carefully carved brand and public persona, even led many his way by feeding  their super egos with his celebrity image…. that  as a brash rich guy. A fantasy for some. Therefore, what repels some, is the essence of cool to others. Then there was the imagery and symbolisms of power exuded by Mr. Trump and his clan. Rich cool! What most don’t get is that Mr. Trump ran George Wallace’s 1968  campaign, but he’s no Wallace when it came to wealth. We forget that like Trump, the Wallace campaign was one of  large crowds, a candidate with a propensity toward carnival barking entertainment, who  threatened to  walk away from global agreements, and payments in foreign aide.. called it “money going down a rat whole”.

But, we never saw Donald Trump in a plaid shirt seeking to connect to rural farmers, or jacket off walking around in a school. Actually, we never saw Mr. Trump when he wasn’t   wearing a suit (accept for playing golf), and without a knotted power tie. The third reason pollsters and pundits got it wrong was because no one wanted to accept that our collective dialogue has become more coarse, a coarseness that we have learned to accept as simply normal. Just flip the channels on your television, or scan the dialogue of the program your kids watch. Better yet, listen to your kids, the occasional unguarded banter between them and their friends and the music you hope they are not listening to.  Today, coarse language and indifference to decency has become a ready form of entertainment and is just run of the mill.  So, the ACCESS HOLLYWOOD tape was played to an American public that is immune to outrage when we hear coarse language, as we are far removed from our puritan beginnings. Therefore, we’ve elected a president who is demonstrably  profane, have documented history of disrespecting and belittling women… reducing them to sex objects, is in his third marriage, have various charges pending and has a limited association with the truth.

On election night pundit Mike Murphy said that “data is dead” in response to the growing realization that the outcome would not be as all the smart guys predicted with their data models, and on the Wednesday morning after the election, Rev Al Sharpton on MSNBC’s Morning Joe said that Trump is the “White Don King”.  They both nailed it, especially Rev Al Sharpton. Mr. Trump is a showman… a master promoter; and he knew what dog whistles would work on a large swath of mostly rural Americans that would energize them to vote in rates that have not been seen before. To the latter point, the forth thing the pundits got wrong was the power of newspaper endorsements. Some will argue that newspaper endorsements are obviously meaningless because most of them endorsed Hillary Clinton, but it made no difference. But this writer suggests that view is inaccurate. Newspaper endorsements does matter, depending on the newspaper. The KKK’s endorsement of Donald Trump in its national publication made a difference in the election and helped fuel the unusually high voter turnout in rural America and elsewhere. Those pollsters did not see that coming… that tsunami of Americans who withstood “change” in electing the first African American President, but more change, in electing the first female president directly after, was simply too much change for an America that feels as though there country is no longer theirs.

For instance, in Florida, by the numbers, a sampling (below) of some of Florida’s most rural counties like Dixie, Gulf, Hernando, Liberty, Wakulla, Pasco, Walton , Okaloosa and Nassau,  shows that Republican turnout soared past its performance from the 2012 election, when by any measure Democratic  numbers were significantly reduced. What we’ve witnessed is a campaign which brazenly stoked the fires of racism, misogyny and xenophobia; produce voting patterns whereby more inactive voters came out, and perhaps where some rural Democrats crossed over to vote for that candidate. As there is nothing new under the sun,  Mr Trump surely and purposefully  ran the campaign of George Wallace circa  1968, but with much more success.  Wednesday morning quarterbacking is easy, but  Hillarys’ living by the polls, believing the yes men and her own press propagated an air of delusion that could have been avoided simply by smelling what’s in the air, which was 1968 all over again, and polls be damned.

Election 2012 Rep Dem Election 2016/Rep Dem
Counties     Counties  
Dixie 5,052 1,798 5,822 1,270
Gulf 4,995 2,014 5,320 1,715
Hernando 44,938 37,830 59,029 31,818
Liberty 2,301 942 2,542 651
Wakulla 9,290 5,175 10,507 4,348
Pasco 112,427 98,263 141,943 89,998
Walton 21,490 6,671 25,695 6,861
Okaloosa 70,168 23,421 71,788 23,711
Nassau 29,929 10,251 34,221 10,849



Michael Dobson is a longtime Tallahassee-based lobbyist, columnist and Managing Member of Dobson, Craig and Associates. Can be reached at Michael@michaeldobson.com (850) 241-5896

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Don’t be fooled by Florida utility companies again. Amendment 1 is Florida’s private utility Cartels last death rattle, and they know it.

Florida Utility companies know that they are fighting against a tide that has solidified. This awareness explains the recent $3. 5 million dollars that’s been ponied up by FPL and Duke energy to secure passage of an Amendment by shear slight of hand.

The how and why? Well, here is a little history. In 2006, as cap-n-trade was winning support in congress and when even future Republican Presidential candidate Senator John McCain supported it , states believed that the policy would be a foregone conclusion. So, in anticipation, the Florida legislature committed  its Public Service Commissions to developing a strategy for  incrementally increasing renewable energy production as a goal, but  without hard targets;  and to also  have utilities pursue strategies that cap emissions.

Utilities also  feared that  with an Obama win,  Federal  rules formulated by the Federal Energy Regulation Commission ( FERC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be even more onerous for the industry than those promised by McCain. In 2008, renewable energy advocates in Florida had President in Barack Obama and a Governor  Charlie Crist who paled around with California’s Governor  Arnold Schwarzenegger,  when California led the nation in renewable energy policy.  But, the love fest with renewable energy and the begrudging acquiescence  of the investor owned utility industry came to a head as opposition in congress  found its winning message from the Heritage foundation and other conservative think tanks. The winning  messaging campaigns  that cap-n-trade is  “ cap-n-tax” , and   that “renewable energy would kill jobs” was hatched. These successful message campaigns  brought all thoughtful Republicans in line with those on the hard right. The  message campaign , coupled with the Solyndra Solar debacle made both a  Federal Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and cap-n-trade policy  dead on arrival. When the dust settled moderate Republicans no longer supported the dream, as those who did where attacked form the right in their re-election campaigns.  The utility cartel found its voice.

In Florida we  elected a climate change denier in  Rick Scott as  Governor in 2010, and later elected  the  Republican   Majority leader in congress who was charged with leading  the fight against renewable energy as Commissioner of Agriculture In Commissioner Adam Putman.  With Governor Scotts blessings,  Commissioner Putnam then wasted no time dismantling whatever infrastructure remained that focused on creating  robust renewable energy policy in Florida. He first eliminated  the Florida Energy Commission created by Gov Crist, then through the legislature, placed all energy  policy into the office of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer service.

Then  the 2012 Florida legislative session with HB 7117 and SB 2094,  put the nail in the coffin for all of the progress that had been made in the intervening years. The bills eliminated any and all references in statutory   language stating intent to at least pursue  a future Florida Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS),  which  would have  increased renewable energy production. This writer argued that without the language of  intent and priority, that the legislature would be closing the door on ever taking our rightful place as leaders in solar energy.  And, the utility lobby even coerced some renewable energy  advocates to support the bill as a compromise with an off the record promise of working out more favoring legislation or rules for the next session. Many were fooled. However,  the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association (FREPA)  opposed it. We knew that once passed, and with no stated intent to increase solar energy, any and all momentum toward more renewable energy in Florida by independent producers would stop, and it did.


So what’s changed now and why the disingenuous amendment?  It’s because, the industrys’ consultants and pollsters  are aware that more than likely our next president will be Hillary Clinton, and they know that the global community is closing in on our state leaders  propensity for  keeping us in the dark ages regarding climate change. The utility industry has historically shown that it can plan and act in advance of the anticipated changes in the political winds, as they did in 2006. They are aware that  a Clinton administration would be a restart button for Obamas energy goals,  that she would likely have a more favorable congress , and that she may be even more tenacious than Obama…..the  policy wonk and creature of Washington that she is.   These are things that investor owned utilities know and the why now of Amendment 1.  So, don’t be fooled. Even they know they’re on the wrong side of history. Vote No on Amendment 1.

See: http://www.gainesville.com/opinion/20120301/michael-dobson-florida-must-get-serious-about-renewable-energy






Michael Dobson is a long-time Tallahassee based Governmental Relations Consultant, political consultant, columnist, Founder/ President of Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association,  and  Managing Member of  Dobson Craig and Associates

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by Michael Dobson

With a few days remaining before our collective sighs of relief and good riddance to the 2016 presidential campaign, in reflection, one can only say that it was like a Seinfeld episode. You know… the show about nothing.

We will be voting for president in a season when  even if someone had a gun to your head, you could not tell them where any of the candidates stood on education, the environment,  or social security. There has never been a presidential campaign in my adult life when education and social security were not discussed. Yes, Hillary has reams of policy positions on her website for those brave enough to spend a day reading them, but Mr. Trump  relies on bumper sticker slogans, name calling and too many falsehoods that one gets tired of pointing them out.  We walk out of the voting booths feeling dirty and  realizing that we've heard little to nothing about the things that directly affect our daily lives the whole time. It was dirty, scary and at times entertaining , but in the end, it was also about nothing. What do they see as the role of the Department Of Education, the EPA, the FCC, or the host of other agencies and governmental bodies of which the President will influence. What about Medicare expansion or the SCHIP program. We never heard an in depth and important conversation about funding for higher education, vocational training or the handling of student debt that our nation deserves.

In one of the primary debates, Jeb Bush retorted to Donald Trump  that Mr Trump would not be able to bully his way to the White House with mere bluster. Well, I think history will show that he almost did. Even at the end of the campaign, Trumps campaign is applauding themselves because the candidate is reading the teleprompter and so called “ staying on message”. But when these seasoned political professionals carved out a message in this campaign, it was not one about the policies that affect our lives. The latter would be in a  normal campaign. But today, the message  is  that  Hillary is “crooked Hillary”, that  she should be “in jail” and other digressions of name calling and false allegations. The word  "corruption” has been thrown around as if by simply saying it, that its true.  For Hillary’s part, against her better instincts and wishes, she has given up on having a serious policy discussion. She’s in the mud and knows it, so because she is no shrinking violet, she has gone all Chicago on Trump.

But, a larger discussion to be had after the dust is settled, is this: when did HACKING someones email account become legal and acceptable ? And, is HACKED  EMAIL , resulting from  an illegal activity, something that should be treated as fair game by the press? Could you imagine the turmoil in your personal and professional lives if all of your email was hacked and shared, in some cases with people who were insulted in some way or dismissed in some way in a communication assumed to be private. Yes, I’ve heard  that you should never write an email in anger or say anything that you would not want the world to see, but who adheres  that?

This little nuance about computer espionage and our faux belief that we are safe to communicate in confidence electronically is an interesting dinner topic and all; but, we should not base the leadership of the free world on the misunderstanding of such nuances in modern electronic communication. Do we really want to determine an election based on chit chat between John Podesta and others about essentially nothing of import? Or, some off handed half baked musing from a young campaign staffer? Further, what about Anthony Weiner and his wife’s exchanges, all of which has NOTHING to do with Hillary Clinton? But, in the end, that is what this campaign is about.. emails.. he's a con man.. lock her up..bimbos.. pussy.. tits..tweets..small hands..womens' looks..a woman's weight.. Mexican are rapist (wrong)…. building walls (that will never be built)…nude statutes… committed sexual assault (slanderous?)..put the bitch down, and it goes on and on. Yes truly, It has been the CAMPAIGN ABOUT NOTHING, from which the next president will be like a Cracker Jack  prize. We deserved respectful, thoughtful and  serious dialogue about our challenges, but didn’t get it.  Glad it’s going to be over. God bless us.

Michael Dobson is a long-time Tallahassee based Governmental Relations Consultant, political consultant, columnist, Founder/ President of Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association,  and  Managing Member of  Dobson Craig and Associates. Can be contacted at Michael@michaeldobson.org