This past Friday, UMD for Clean Energy hosted US Senator Ben Cardin at the University of Maryland for a Clean Energy Town Hall. It went pretty well, we had a good turnout, I counted 70-80 attendees at the event, tough and smart questions, and a good speech by Cardin about the need for the US to act. While there was some disagreement with the Senator over the merits of nuclear power, common ground was largely found on the rest of his articulated positions, particularly over the need to not have offshore drilling of the coast of Maryland, which would threaten the Chesapeake Bay. Cardin expressed appreciation for the leadership efforts of students at the university, and the strong showing of support for US leadership on climate. He said he can go back to DC and point to examples like us to his colleagues as reasons why our country has no excuse not to act.
Below is the article in The Diamondback about the event (it called nuclear power renewable, I will ask for a correction), as well as a video UMD for Clean Energy made. We showed it to Senator Cardin at the start of the town hall. What’s impressive about this video is that none of these statements by students were scripted. This highlights how knowledgeable and engaged students at UMD are on this issue.
Cardin pushes for clean energy legislation
By Leyla Korkut
An upcoming federal bill aimed at tackling the country’s numerous environmental issues should enable the country to make progress toward clean, renewable energy by offering reforms such as protecting the Chesapeake Bay from offshore drilling, Sen. Ben Cardin told a group of students Friday.
Cardin (D-Md.) spoke to a few dozen students in the Stamp Student Union’s Benjamin Banneker Room at a town hall forum sponsored by UMD for Clean Energy. The event was designed to give students a chance to question the senator about upcoming environmental legislation.
One climate bill in particular — which has already passed the House of Representatives — may come before Cardin and his colleagues in the Senate within the next week, he said.
Cardin said he hopes this bill will protect the Chesapeake Bay from offshore drilling, institute cap-and-trade policies and invest in renewable forms of energy, which are issues Cardin said should be tackled now — strengthening what he called a watered-down bill passed by the House.
“Environmental issues are mainstream America. It’s a popular issue,” Cardin said. “As a result, we’ve been able to pass some far-reaching bills — all have been passed with the last 40 years. We’re trying to protect our environment, and now that [President Barack] Obama’s been elected, the Environmental Protection Agency is actually protecting the environment.”
However, Cardin argued citizens of the state should not take this opportunity for granted because the Chesapeake Bay is constantly at risk for pollution.
“The problem today is our great water bodies are being polluted, and they’re very difficult to clean up,” Cardin said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure it’s there for future generations.”
Cardin said one of the primary ways to preserve the Chesapeake Bay and other bodies of water is to create an energy policy that will rely less on polluting fossil fuels — including oil, particularly from foreign sources — and more on renewable sources of energy, such as nuclear, solar and wind energy.
“We can argue energy policy based on national security,” Cardin said. “We spend a billion dollars a day importing oil; we’re financing people who’d like to see us go away. The only way we can become energy independent is to develop renewable sources. We know that we have to do much better on an energy policy that relies on renewable energy sources.”
Cardin also described a proposal to create a national cap-and-trade system, in which each company would be allocated an amount of pollutants its operations may emit and a company with minimal pollution could sell its allocation to one that is less eco-friendly. Cardin’s proposal would remove a set price for carbon emissions, letting the market decide the value of carbon pollution.
Students at the forum largely agreed with Cardin’s policy proposals, but junior environmental science and policy major Cara Miller said she was not completely convinced nuclear energy was worth investing in considering nuclear waste’s potential danger.
“I came in on the fence about the issue,” she said, “and he didn’t sway me one way or the other.”
Senior government and politics major Matt Dernoga, a Diamondback columnist and UMD for Clean Energy’s campaign director, said that among the numerous issues that Cardin hopes to tackle, the most important was ensuring federal standards would not prevent this state from excelling in its environmental goals.
Cardin told students Friday that he was especially optimistic about the climate bill given how much the university has improved its sustainability practices in recent years.
“I’m convinced we’ll pass a global energy climate bill,” he said. “We’re going to be able to pass those goals. I’m more optimistic today knowing what you’re doing at the University of Maryland. If UMD can do it as a campus, there’s no reason why industry can’t do it.”