February 17, 2013

Regarding the Feb. 11 editorial Return of an unwise wind plan”:

Offshore wind power is a critical piece of America’s energy future. It offers answers for advancing our economy, reducing pollution tied to global warming and moving toward energy independence. The time is now to put Maryland businesses at the forefront of a new American industry.

The Post was right to praise the state’s policy that at least 20 percent of Maryland’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020. However, it missed the mark when it argued that a plan to spur development of offshore wind would undermine that policy.

The winds blowing off our coast represent — by far — the state’s most abundant energy resource, and it is the only one that can meet Maryland’s clean-energy goals while keeping most of our renewable-energy investment dollars in the state. An initial offshore wind project could provide enough electricity to power a third of the homes on the Eastern Shore or a quarter of the homes in Baltimore City.

Since 1991, European countries have installed more than 4,000 megawatts of offshore wind turbines, enough to power more than 1.5 million homes and to employ more than 30,000 workers. Meanwhile, there is not a single offshore wind project in place in the United States. This creates a significant opportunity for the state that takes the lead by investing early in a growing industry. Working with the governor, Maryland legislators have drafted a policy that will ensure that we approve only projects that provide net benefits to the state, including jobs. Maryland is also a diverse state, and by applying the state’s minority business program to offshore wind projects, we’ll promote minority-owned and female-owned business participation in the supply chain.

But there’s more to this story. In 2012, the dramatic effects of pollution-driven climate change began to hit home for Marylanders. For example, the Middleton family farm in Waldorf was touched by one of the worst droughts on record, resulting in significant loss of farm income. The state also experienced near-record heat-related deaths. While we were spared the brunt of Superstorm Sandy, thousands of Marylanders lost power for days, and many experienced flooding. Continuing to pump heat-warming gases from fossil fuels into our atmosphere will put our families only at greater risk from climate disasters. The General Assembly has committed the state to doing its part to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Developing large-scale clean energy like offshore wind is critical to that effort.

We can move forward with offshore wind in a way that ensures our investment is affordable. The current proposal ensures that only projects that satisfy ratepayer safeguards, imposing a cost of no more than a projected $1.50 per month for the average ratepayer, will qualify. Recent polling by Opinion Works shows that 72 percent of Marylanders support such an investment to develop an offshore wind farm.

In his inaugural address, President Obama stated that “we cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries — we must claim its promise.” There are more than 1,000 businesses throughout Maryland that are in industries that could participate in the offshore wind supply chain, but we must act now if we want to gain the most rewards for our workforce and local economies.

Dereck Davis and Mac Middleton, Annapolis

Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s) is chairman of the Maryland House Economic Matters Committee. Mac Middleton (D-Charles) is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.