Our state is one of the leaders in working to reduce carbon emissions, but without additional effort to propel the effort forward, without recognition that having passed the 400-ppm threshold we are getting closer to a planetary catastrophe, we will fail our fellow citizens. We not only have to get the job done here in Maryland – we must use our success to help lead the country forward. The American mindset must change, and the old American spirit of rising to global challenges must be re-engaged.
In 2008 the Montgomery County Council passed seven bills to make our county a “Cool County” by 2050, and we expanded that effort statewide with the Global Warming Solutions Act. Maryland is one of eight states with self-imposed mandates to cut greenhouse gases, and the 25 percent 2020 target in the 2008 bill was the second- highest in the country. Maryland is also part of a regional cap-and- trade program designed to reduce fossil fuel emissions from power plants by as much as 40 percent..
To meet the state-mandated goal of cutting carbon emissions 20 percent by 2022, the O'Malley administration suggested boosting composting and recycling programs, doubling ridership on public transit, planting more trees and lowering the emissions cap on the state's seven coal-burning power plants. On track to fall short, the legislature enacted the Clean Energy Jobs Act in 2017, after a veto override, which amended Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to reset the renewable energy target to 25% by 2020, but went no further.
We have to do more, beginning by taking the crisis very seriously, and fighting back against the climate change and science deniers. We can also:
- Accelerate construction of green buildings.
- Retrofit older apartment buildings to weatherize and modernize them, providing affordable housing.
- Create new, high-paying jobs as we “green” our economy and make ourselves increasingly independent of Middle East oil.
- Double the goal of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) from 20% in 2022, and raise the percentage obtained from solar above 2%.
- Reinstate the state and county tax credits for solar installations.
- Demand a state safety study for the Dominion Cove Point natural gas liquefaction and export/import facility.
- Support increased use of biomass.
- Ban Styrofoam packaging in the state, following the lead of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
- Fund research into fusion technology, which has long been the holy grail of renewable energy, but has not been developed due to technical engineering difficulties. The joke is that humanity is 20 years away from a practical power plant, and has been for 60 years, but that may be changing, and we need to help it along.
Reliable power delivery has been an issue in Maryland, and particularly in Montgomery County, as climate change has increased the incidence of extreme weather. While Pepco’s service has significantly improved, we must demand far more reliable delivery standards.
How can we fund the greening of Maryland? Through subsidies and bonds, as we still have the lowest interest rates in two generations. My son, an entrepreneur in California, suggested a few years ago:
We can save our planet and improve our quality of life if we have leadership and the will to make it happen.