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Commentary: Maryland's Energy Consumption

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Commentator Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, says it's time for Maryland state legislators to take action on bills designed to minimize the environmental impact of energy consumption.

You know the saying: Everyone talks about the weather but no one, well, does anything.

In early February, daffodils and more than a few cherry trees were blooming in D.C. neighborhoods just after scientists told us that 2011 was one of the warmest years ever recorded. The trends of weird weather and climate change are accelerating here and worldwide.

But while Congress remains in gridlock, many leaders in Maryland's General Assembly actually want to do something. Gov. Martin O'Malley has reintroduced an offshore wind bill that would help the state reduce its use of planet-warming coal. A researcher from Boston University estimates the project O'Malley is proposing could save more than 300 lives and nearly $2 billion in health costs in 20 years.

In a recent Gonzales poll for the National Wildlife Federation, 62 percent of registered Maryland voters surveyed said they would be willing to invest in these 21st century ocean-based wind mills, even if it brings a very slight rise in power bills. The Maryland state Senate and House have begun debates this month.

Meanwhile, Del. Heather Mizeur of Montgomery County has introduced a bill that would, for the first time in Maryland, take a serious look at the global warming impacts of the controversial natural gas drilling method called hydraulic fracking. Turns out fracking in Western Maryland could do more than just make people's drinking water flammable. New evidence suggests the drilling method vents significant amounts of methane gas into the atmosphere, adding to global warming. Mizeur's bill would fund studies to determine the full impacts of fracking before Maryland permits the practice here.

Of course, some people wonder what a small state like Maryland can really do to fight a global crisis like climate change. Building windmills to our east and banning fracking to our west are not, by themselves, going to stem global sea-level rise or tame bigger hurricanes. But Maryland, D.C. and Virginia are overwhelmingly vulnerable to those storms and to that sea-level rise. If we don't start kicking our own climate-altering fossil fuel addiction, why should any other state or country?

The time for talking is over. It's time for doing.

Mike Tidwell is the director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.


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