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Anti-Green Backlash Gathering Strength In North America

Few states had a more aggressive Republican-backed effort to address global warming and promote renewable energy than Florida in 2007 and 2008. But the political mood has changed so dramatically that lawmakers today are close to repealing the period’s signature energy initiative.

Appealing to environmental concerns and global expectations that renewable electricity would be the next boom industry, former Gov. Charlie Crist made energy reform a top priority after his 2006 election. At the time, the economy was still booming and public support for such programs was high.

The moderate Republican governor pushed through a 237-page bill in 2008 promoting solar power, ethanol, energy efficient buildings and other reforms.

But Crist is now a pariah among Republicans and public attitudes on climate change and energy have swung sharply amid concerns about rising gas prices, emboldening state lawmakers to challenge the former governor’s legacy.

In 2007, 77 percent of Americans said there was solid evidence of global warming and that it was a somewhat or very serious problem, according to Pew Research Center polling. But by 2011 the issue had dropped to the bottom of the list of the nation’s top problems and only 63 percent said there was solid evidence of global warming, Pew’s polls show.

Meanwhile, conservative Republicans asserted control of the state House and Senate, as well as the governor’s office, in the 2010 elections.

The turnaround was evident in the state House last week as lawmakers voted 82-34 along party lines to repeal a key “cap-and-trade” provision in the Florida Climate Protection Act — legislation that passed the House and Senate unanimously in 2008.

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