Letter: Doubling wind and solar is the right choice for Maryland

| February 17, 2015 | 1 Comment

icon_letterAs a high school Environmental Science teacher in Anne Arundel County, I have the good fortune to teach some of the brightest, most passionate, and inquisitive students in the county.  The course is fun and challenging because there is rarely a right or wrong side to the issues that we study, thus forcing students to learn all sides and make their own decisions — basically creating informed future voters.

Our current topic is energy. While there are pros and cons to all of the options to power our lives, many of the choices just seem like no-brainers. To quote a student who recently researched solar and wind energy, “Why wouldn’t we choose to use these clean and renewable sources?” 

This timely question is once again at hand as our legislators get to work in Annapolis. A wide-ranging coalition — including business leaders, health care workers, faith leaders, and social justice advocates — is backing legislation that would double Maryland’s commitment to wind and solar power. The bill would require that 40 percent of the electricity used in Maryland come from renewable sources by 2025, up from the current 20 percent goal.

In my view, this is one of those no-brainers. In 2004, a bipartisan majority of Maryland legislators, led by Annapolis Del. Michael Busch, passed the state’s first major law to encourage solar and wind energy. The “Renewable Portfolio Standard Act,” a bill requiring that an increasing percentage of Maryland’s electricity come from renewable sources each year, was supported by Senate President Mike Miller and signed into law by Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich. Maryland was on the way to generating clean energy and local jobs.

Fast forward to today and solar, in particular, has taken off in Maryland, now employing over 2,000 people in 150 companies — and representing a bigger share of Maryland’s economy than our famous crab industry. But the impacts of climate change are taking off as well, and faster than scientists predicted ten years ago. Maryland still gets a large amount of its electricity from burning coal, oil and gas, producing pollution that harms our climate, our health, the Chesapeake Bay, and tidal cities like Annapolis. According to one recent study, rising seas could cause daily flooding in Annapolis within the next three decades — when my students will be raising their own families.

In 2015, it’s time for a renewed bipartisan effort to tackle these challenges and raise our clean energy standards. As my student asked, “Why wouldn’t we?”

Because of advances in technology and falling prices, this goal of doubling wind and solar use is certainly achievable. It’s also a moral imperative. The scientific reality of climate change is as relentless as the rising seas and strange and severe weather already disrupting lives. We can and must move beyond energy that sickens people and destroys the places we love. The 40 percent clean electricity standard will spur 4,500 megawatts of renewable energy and make Maryland a region-wide leader in tackling climate change.

In 2008, Speaker Busch met with a group of Environmental Science students and teachers from my school to discuss green legislation like Maryland’s renewable energy standard.  In 2015, Speaker Busch can build on his legacy by once again leading a forward-thinking, bipartisan coalition to raise it. Doubling Maryland’s use of clean energy like wind and solar is the right choice for the future of my students and all kids growing up in Maryland today.

Nancy Bourgeois

The writer is an Environmental Science teacher at Broadneck High School in Annapolis.

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