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 is 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 25 percent by 2020, Governor O'Malley has 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. The Governor has said that without faster progress, Maryland would fall short of the goal and reduce its carbon emissions by only about 17 percent by 2020.
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 that lapsed during the recession.
- Demand a federal Environmental Impact Statement for the planned Dominion Cove Point natural gas liquefaction and export facility.
- Support increased use of biomass.
- Ban Styrofoam packaging.
- 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.
An issue close to my heart is that of endocrine disruptors, toxic chemicals that act as super-estrogens when absorbed by wildlife and humans as a result of environmental dumping. Though it clearly is an environmental problem, I will discuss this issue in more detail under “Public Health.”
Reliable power delivery has become an issue in Maryland, and particularly in Montgomery County, as climate change has increased the incidence of extreme weather. We must demand of Pepco far more reliable delivery standards, but also pressure them by studying the creation of public power utilities, an example of which currently exists in Cleveland.
Finally, a relatively new issue burst onto the scene a few years back - fracking, or hydraulic fracturing - of the earth to obtain natural gas that was unobtainable by older technology. The United States has now become a net exporter of natural gas, thanks to fracking. However, the technology is flawed and is poisoning the aquifers and destroying farmland. Maryland has had the foresight to institute a fracking moratorium until we can learn how to safely extract the gas without destroying the environment. We sit on the Marcellus Formation, marine sedimentary rock which underlies Appalachia and which harbors 141 trillion cubic feet of gas, as well as other deeper, secondary deposits. We must continue to study the technology and the possibility that while we may not drill in Maryland, there are plans to set up an export plant at Cove Point to service Europe and Asia with out-of-state gas.
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.