When asked about addressing climate change during Wednesday night's debate, Marco Rubio said the policies put forward by liberals would have a detrimental effect on the U.S. economy.
However, while serving as the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio repeatedly espoused the potential benefits of cap and trade programs and presided over the passage of a bill allowing the state to set rules for such a system and encouraging a transition away from electricity produced by burning fossil fuels.
Rubio believed at the time that a federal cap-and-trade program was "inevitable" and that, if Florida adopted one early, it would be in a position to "influence what that cap and trade looks like at the federal level."
"Florida should position itself for what I believe is inevitable, and that is a federal cap and trade program," he said in 2008, according to the Miami Herald. "Florida should do everything it can to be an early complier so that it can access early compliance funds and so that it can help influence what that cap and trade looks like at the federal level."
Rubio even said he was "in favor of giving the Department of Environmental Protection a mandate that they go out and design a cap and trade or a carbon tax program and bring it back to the Legislature for ratification sometime in the next two years."
At the debate, however, Rubio said he would not pursue that kind of legislation as President.
"We're not gonna destroy our economy the way the left-wing government that we're under now wants to do," he said.
Echoing comments he made earlier this year and in 2013, he added, "We are not gonna make America a harder place to create jobs in order to pursue policies that will do absolutely nothing, nothing to change our climate, to change our weather. Because America's a lot of things, the greatest country in the world, but America is not a planet. And we are not even the largest carbon producer anymore, China is, and they are drilling a hole anywhere in the world that they can get ahold of."
The case that new environmental regulations would cripple the American economy is also a reversal for the Florida senator, who previously contended that Florida should pursue "bold energy policies," both because it would be good for the environment and because "people will actually make money at doing it."
"Today, Florida has the opportunity to pursue bold energy polciies, not just because they're good for our environment, but because people will actually make money at doing it," he said in a 2007 speech. "This nation, and ultimately the world, is headed towards emission caps and energy diversification. Those changes will require technological advances that make those measures cost effective. The demand toward such advances will create an industry to meet it—Florida should become the Silicon Valley of that industry."
Furthermore, in his 2006 book 100 Innovative Ideas For Florida's Future, Rubio argued that Florida should "offer additional incentives for clean alternative-fueled vehicles and hybrid passenger vehicles. A shift to driving hybrids, he said, was "guaranteed to save Floridians money on gasoline while reducing emissions and helping to curb global warming."
A Rubio spokesman contacted BuzzFeed News after the story published, disputing the story's framing and pointing to an op-ed Rubio wrote in July 2007 that the spokesman said criticized then-governor Charlie Crist's "job-killing cap-and-trade mandates."
In the piece, published in the Miami Herald, Rubio writes that "Crist issued a number of bold and well intentioned energy edicts," but said those initiatives, such as "the kind of emissions caps that Gov. Crist is advocating for Florida," would stimulate a rise in utilities costs.
In the column, Rubio argued that "the potential to integrate greener approaches into the fabric of Florida's economy is unlimited," but that Florida should encourage energy efficiency through measures like tax incentives and supporting the production of ethanol and bio-fuels.
The spokesman declined to comment on Rubio's past statements advocating for cap and trade.