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DeSantis Actually Did Want to Ban Fracking in Florida

Nikki Haley was right.

Ron DeSantis.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

A single moment at the second Republican debate revealed the party’s utter confusion about how to handle environmental issues.

It came in the second hour, in a testy back-and-forth between Nikki Haley, the former UN ambassador and South Carolina governor, and Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida.

Haley said that at the United Nations, she learned that “energy security is national security.”

“We need a president that understands we have to partner with our producers and make sure that we have their backs,” she said.

Then she homed in on DeSantis: “Ron is against fracking, he's against drilling. He always talks about what happens on day one. But you better watch out because what happens on day two is when you're in trouble. Day Two in Florida, you banned fracking, you banned offshore drilling, and you took green subsidies that you didn’t need to take,” she said.

DeSantis ignored the attack at first. “I just did a plan in West Texas for American energy dominance,” he said. At that event, he promised, with no small amount of foolishness, to get gas back down below $2 a gallon, something that is not in a president’s ability.

“We’re going to choose Midland over Moscow,” he said Wednesday night, referencing a Texas city known for its oil industry. “We’re going to choose the Marcelus over the Mullah, and we’re going to choose the Bakken over Beijing, and we’re going to lower your gas prices.”

When Haley kept up the attack, DeSantis claimed that Florida voters — not him — ultimately passed a constitutional amendment banning fracking.

But in fact, Haley is right. Running for governor in 2018, DeSantis pledged to ban fracking on “Day One” of his term. He also promised to stop offshore oil drilling, which the Trump administration was then considering for Florida’s Atlantic coast. “With Florida’s geological makeup of limestone and shallow water sources, fracking presents a danger to our state that is not acceptable,” his gubernatorial campaign website said.

Voters backed him — and, in the same election, rejected offshore drilling. In 2018, Floridians voted in favor of a referendum that made two changes to the state constitution: It banned offshore drilling in state waters and vaping in indoor work places. (Ah, Florida.)

But fracking remained unbanned. So on the second day of his administration, DeSantis signed an executive order telling state officials to “take necessary actions to adamantly oppose” fracking and offshore drilling.

These moves didn’t come in a vacuum. During his first term, DeSantis repeatedly cast himself as an environmental moderate, seeking to differentiate himself from his immediate predecessor, Rick Scott. During his 2022 reelection, DeSantis continued to promise to ban fracking in the state.

For her part, Haley has long sought to open up more drilling in her state. As governor in 2012, she joined South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham in calling for an expansion of offshore drilling off the coast of South Carolina.

Those plans never took. And after Trump appointed Haley to the UN in 2017, she was replaced by her lieutenant governor Henry McMaster, who was far less interested in offshore drilling.

Of course, this sparring match proceeded without any recognition of global warming. Earlier this week, the International Energy Association said that if the world cuts its oil and gas demand enough to meet the 1.5 degree goal, then it will not need significant new fossil-fuel reserves.

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Robinson Meyer

Robinson is the founding executive editor of Heatmap. He was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covered climate change, energy, and technology. Read More

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Sparks

Coal’s Slowdown Is Slowing Down

Rising electricity demand puts reliability back on the table.

Pollution.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The United States has been able to drive its greenhouse gas emissions to their lowest level since the early 1990s largely by reducing the amount of energy on the grid generated by coal to a vast extent. In 2005, by far the predominant source of U.S. electricity, making up some 2.2 million gigawatt-hours of the country’s 4.3 million GWh total energy consumption, according to the International Energy Agency. In 2022, by contrast, coal generation was down to 900,000 GWh out of 4.5 million GWh generated. As a result, “U.S. emissions are 15.8% lower than 2005 levels, while power emissions are 40% lower than 2005 levels,” according to BloombergNEF and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

But the steady retirement of coal plants may be slowing down. Only 2.3 GW of coal generating capacity are set to be shut down so far in 2024, according to the Energy Information Administration. While in 2025, that number is expect to jump up to 10.9 GW, the combined 13.2 GW of retired capacity pales in comparison of the more than 22 GW retired in the past two years, according to EIA figures. Over the past decade, coal retirements have averaged about 10 GW a year, with actual retirements often outpacing forecasts.

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Sparks

Trump Thinks EV Charging Will Cost $3 Trillion — Which Is Incorrect

Nor will charging infrastructure ”bankrupt” the U.S.

Electric car charging.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Shortly after being fined $350 million (more than $450 million, including interest) over fraudulent business practices and then booed at Sneaker Con, former President Donald Trump traveled to Waterford, Michigan, where he said some incorrect things about electric vehicles.

Even by Trump’s recent standards, Saturday’s Waterford rally was a bit kooky. During his nearly hour-and-a-half-long speech, the former president claimed that his opponents are calling him a whale (“I don’t know if they meant a whale from the standpoint of being a little heavy, or a whale because I got a lot of money”) and, improbably, claimed not to have known what the word “indictment” meant.

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Sparks

This Chicken Named Potato Will Teach Your Kids About Climate Change

A chicken from the future, to be clear.

Future Chicken.
Heatmap Illustration/CBC, Getty Images

If I told you there was a chicken named Potato who was going to teach our kids about climate change, would you think I was kidding? Either way, I’m here to inform you that Future Chicken, an “ECOtainment platform” co-created by Catherine Winder and Annabel Slaight, launched last year, including original content like a TV show that airs on CBC and YouTube, games, and a podcast, all aimed at warding off climate doom and instead highlighting climate solutions.

Winder and Slaight have, to put it mildly, impressive resumes, with Slaight having been an executive producer of The Big Comfy Couch and Winder a force behind multiple Angry Birds movies. The show’s premise is fun, and was actually thought up by kids. The main character is a chicken (named Potato) from the year 2050, a time when climate change has seemingly been solved. She travels back and forth between the future and the present, sometimes talking about the solutions of her time.

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