The Dernogalizer

September 1, 2008

Climate Change Report for Maryland

Filed under: Energy/Climate,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 7:57 pm
Tags: , , , ,

In 2007, Governor O’Malley created a Commission on Climate Change to study how Climate Change would impact the state of Maryland along with the kinds of policies that Maryland should adopt to make the necessary reductions in carbon emissions, along with what Maryland is capable of doing. The final report recently came out from the commission, and while earlier reports pretty much said all that one would need to hear to get moving, this last report put the icing on the cake.

In the legislative session of 2008, Maryland almost passed a global warming bill, called the Global Warming Solutions Act, which would have made Maryland a national leader by committing to a 25% cut in CO2 by 2020, and a voluntary 90% cut by 2050. I’ve worked hard over the last year or so on this legislation, and it’s one of the things in Maryland that I know inside and out. Basically in 2008 the Global Warming Solutions Act was endorsed by Governor O’Malley, passed out of the State Senate, but then it had a bad amendment slapped on it, where it went to the House of Delegates. There, it died in committee when there was a vote to push a bill through that stripped the bad amendment. The major opposition to the bill came from labor, particularly the steel workers in the state who feared that an emissions cap and trade system would cost them their jobs.

Now there are a number of contentions that have been made against this bill by the opposition. The first is of course that it will cost jobs, but this really is just the standard scare tactic used by the opposition to try and kill any bill that will benefit the environment or cut pollution. The reality is that the Global Warming solutions Act would create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Think about all of the solar panels that need creating and installing, same with wind turbines, then you throw in all the retrofitting of our buildings to upgrade efficiency, as well as upgrading our fleet of cars to more fuel efficient ones. One estimation pegged this bill at creating 300,000 thousand good paying green jobs. Furthermore, the bill was actually modified in a compromise where the steel industry would be immune from the bill, since Maryland can hit the targets without their participation. Still to no avail.

There are of course a few “straight talk” lines that I feel I have to make here before I play too nice with labor and the steel workers. First off, while obviously avoiding catastrophic climate change takes more than just Maryland’s participation, we’ve got to do our part. If we let this thing come to pass, Maryland is the 3rd most vulnerable coastal state when it comes to sea level rise. 1st and 2nd are Florida and Louisiana. Oh joy! In the upcoming decades as the waters warm and sea levels rise we could be facing the same kinds of intense storms those states face today. Not to mention that our entire Eastern Shore would be underwater, including some of the very industries and labor that oppose the bill. The second piece of straight talk, is that there are winners and losers in this economy, that’s capitalism. If you haven’t noticed, all our manufacturing jobs are going overseas, and we seem to be fighting the notion that we are now at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to some kinds of manufacturing. Rather than try to keep these jobs, we need to make investments to create new ones that can’t be shipped overseas. If the United States doesn’t make the necessary investments into new advanced technology sector including renewable energy and efficiency, then there will not be a single manufacturing job left in America in 10 years. Mark my words on that one. So if passing this kind of a bill creates 300,000 good paying jobs, but we lose 50,000 that we’re going to lose in 10 years anyways, then I’ll go with the net positive. Create job training centers so that whoever does lose their job can make the transition into a new, better paying and more secure sector. Otherwards, we’ll have the same ironic situation we had with the American auto companies where they fought new fuel economy standards for decades in the protest that they would lose jobs. Then, the foreign automakers came in with fuel efficient cars and the American automakers lost billions of dollars and had to cut jobs anyways. Do we ever learn?

Another point of contention is that why bother passing a state bill? After all, there is a good chance that in 2009 that a national bill will be passed(or a serious attempt made). Both Obama and McCain accept the challenge of climate change and have stated they want to pass a cap and trade bill to address it. While there are serious differences in these plans(Obama’s is stronger and meets what the science demands while McCains’ falls short), they are nonetheless going to cap emissions and therefore raise the price of carbon. So why should Maryland bother? A few reasons, first off, if we get a head start, we can capture more of the clean energy economy than if we start late. If we start early, economies of scale and economies of experience can be acheived which make our state one of the best in the nation in the clean energy sector. That will generate an incredible economic boom for our state when the Fed. Govt. does pass a bill. The second reason is that the national bill might be a bad bill. It may not be politically feasible in 2009 to pass a good climate bill which meets the science and allocates the money from cap and trade appropriately to generate the necessary technologies and jobs to move us forward. The bill may come with bad amendments, or poorly conceived compromises. The Feds will look to the states for what the model of a good, successful bill is. The more states that have passed good strong bills, the stronger the Federal bill will be.

So, having said all of this, the specific recommendations can be found here, but here are some general things stated.

1. The commission is calling for reductions in global warming pollution of at least 25% by 2020.

2. While the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 failed, a number of the necessary policies it would have brought along were passed separately at different times, such as a 20% renewable electricity standard by 2020, large investments into energy efficiency to reduce consumption 15% per capita by 2015 and provide 4.1 billion in energy savings by 2020, the Healhy Air Act to improve emissions standards of our power plants, also our solar and geothermal tax incentive programs were upgraded to make these options more affordable, and we passed the Clean Cars Act reducing emissions and improving fuel economy standards.

3. The key thing we are still lacking is to deal with smart growth, limiting sprawl, and improving our transportation sector with heavy investments and improvements in mass transit.

4. Implementing these reductions will save us billions of dollars and help grow our economy, so it’s a win-win!(and if you count reduction of imported oil…another win).

5. Final main idea is the legislature should pass a bill based on the commissions recommendations this year.

It’s time to make Maryland a leader on climate change. This is surely not the last time I will be blogging about this. Once the elections are over and I have a life again, working on getting these recommendations put into a bill and passed through out state’s General Assembly will be my top priority.


1 Comment »

  1. […] This is but another sign, and a strong follow-up to the report by the Maryland Climate Change Commission, which I provided analysis on in this post. […]

    Pingback by Another Sign for Maryland to Act « The Dernogalizer — September 19, 2008 @ 4:10 pm | Reply

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