MIAMI (AP) -- On Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Crist evoked President Kennedy's challenge to land on the moon and called for the same dedication and innovation to finding ways to save the Earth in an address that kicked off his second annual summit on climate change.
The two-day meeting kicked off with the Republican governor pushing for the development of clean technology to "liberate" the country from its dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil.
"Florida can once again launch America into the coming green technology business boom," Crist said. "In the past it has produced in us the talent, the desire and the resolve to make spaceflight a part of everyday life. Now it can also helps us solve the most difficult challenges of our time: How to address global climate change and how to satisfy our fuel and energy needs."
Crist has come under fire recently from environmentalists for saying he was now open to the idea of expanding oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The reversal puts him in step with Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting John McCain, for whom he has been mentioned as a possible running mate.
Crist has said skyrocketing fuel prices and concern for Floridians' pocketbooks were behind his change of heart. He reiterated that stance Wednesday in calling on the federal government to pass energy legislation.
"A comprehensive policy must include, in my view, a study of how to enhance our domestic oil supply. However, we must have an open discussion, without compromising Florida's sensitive ecosystems and her natural beauty," Crist said. "Only when we are able to do so far enough from Florida's coast, safe enough for our people and clean enough for our beaches should we even consider increasing our oil supply by drilling off Florida's shore."
The conference comes a day after the governor announced a tentative agreement for the state to buy nearly 300 square miles in the Everglades from U.S. Sugar Corp., the nation's largest producer of cane sugar, for $1.75 billion. It would be one of the biggest conservation deals in U.S. history. Florida officials plan to conserve the land and build a network of reservoirs and marshes to filter water flowing into the Everglades and help restore the River of Grass to a cleaner, more natural state.
Also Wednesday, Crist signed legislation supporting the development of renewable technologies. It directs the state to set up a cap-and-trade program, to limit carbon dioxide emissions by power plants and require companies to pay whenever they exceed the restrictions on the gases widely suspected of causing global warming.
The measure also directs the state to develop pollution limits on new vehicles sold in Florida, and require private electrical utilities to generate from renewable sources like wind and solar energy a percentage of the power it sells.