Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) wants to subsidize the construction of large wind farms off the state’s Atlantic Coast. But Maryland law already requires electricity suppliers to derive a fifth of their power from renewable sources by 2022. Why force them to choose one type of clean power over another, potentially cheaper, type?
When we posed that question last month, we received a response from Malcolm D. Woolf, the director of the Maryland Energy Administration. In a letter, Mr. Woolf said that the state shouldn’t continue to “import” electricity from its neighbors; Marylanders should support “home-grown” energy instead of sending “ratepayer dollars to other states” that might produce cheaper renewable power.
Is this the best argument remaining to supporters of the O’Malley plan – that Maryland should be energy-independent? If so, why stop with “home-grown” electricity? Maryland doesn’t build many cars or trucks, yet 4 million Marylanders drive. How about a charge on the purchase of vehicles to subsidize the production of “home-grown” cars, so that Maryland motorists stop sending their dollars to Detroit? Marylanders eat millions of oranges every year. Imagine how many jobs the state could create if it promoted the local fruit industry by building a complex of immense greenhouses.
Among too many political leaders, the argument that carbon-free energy is as much – or more – about “green jobs” as it is about addressing global warming has turned from a politically expedient talking point into an economically dubious article of faith. Confusing the goals of clean energy leads politicians to saddle their states with expensive policies, such as Mr. O’Malley’s green-power protectionism, instead of seeking to secure the best deal for electricity consumers and the environment. It would make far more sense for the state’s suppliers to look all over the Eastern United States for renewable electricity, including in places where, for example, the wind blows powerfully and consistently – and onshore.
Don’t believe us? Then take the word of Mr. Woolf’s agency, which in 2010 opposed the policy Mr. O’Malley now favors. The reasons? Uncertainty about the effectiveness of wind farms to provide electricity to the state, about where wind turbines would go, and about how expensive the whole project would be compared with other options.
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