The extreme weather resulting from climate change has the capacity to seriously damage the 3,000 miles of vulnerable Maryland shoreline – not to mention, that same shore’s susceptibility to the rising sea levels. With water levels likely to rise 3 to 4 times the national average, one-third of the Port of Baltimore is at risk for submersion. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s announcement of a long-term plan to reduce the state’s emissions by increasing production of renewable energy and reducing the amount of waste going to landfills, another source of greenhouse gasses, could not be more welcomed or more appropriate. “The costs of inaction would grow exponentially”, acknowledged O’Malley, citing continuous poor air quality and severe weather events.
His plan sets a goal of 25% energy from renewable sources by the year 2025, continuing his previous timelines. This will be greatly aided by the recent passing of the offshore wind bill, though the turbines will take several years to plan and construct, and may increase utility rates by as much as $1.25 a month for area residents.
Recent initiatives that the Governor pushed through congress will increase solar production as well.
Landfill waste will be reduced, recycled or better used by 60% by the year 2020. The state already recycles 45% of its waste statewide, a high average in this country. There is always room for improvement, especially in certain counties: Montgomery County already recycles everything from textiles to toilets, but others still have far to go.
Finally, the Governor’s plan also calls for a reduction in car emissions of 25%. This may include extended tax credits for electric vehicles, financial incentives for the purchasing of electric vehicles, and installation of additional charging infrastructure, all in the interest of having 60,000 electric vehicles on the road in Maryland by 2020.
Part of the emissions reduction plan includes plans to expand current public transportation systems and increase ridership. The state has already increased public transit trips by 20% over the 2006 levels, but hopes to double that year’s metrics by the year 2020.
O’Malley’s announcement makes Maryland’s goals and standards among the most ambitiously energy-efficient in the nation. We are already reaping the rewards of that through clean-energy grants, but his plan will also increase the economic viability and opportunity in the clean-energy field in Maryland, which is sure to draw investors and businesses as well. “Smart, Green and Growing”, indeed.