Ocean City Today
https://oceancitytoday.villagesoup.com/p/1672046

Support for offshore wind

Readers' Forum
Jul 27, 2017

 

 

printed 07/28/2017

 

Editor,

Renewable energy is the world’s fastest growing energy sector and wind energy is its fastest growing single renewable energy source. More than 54 GW of wind power was installed across the global market in 2016.

That makes wind energy critically important to our planetary survival as climate change comes on at a faster pace than predicted. Anyone suffering through the recent excessive heat and violent storms in the greater Washington, D.C. region, can attest to that. This year is set to be the hottest on record globally, beating the record set … last year.

While onshore wind still predominates, dramatic advances in technology combined with falling costs are also making offshore wind an attractive proposition. Yet, despite its extensive coastlines, the U.S. has lagged woefully and unforgivably behind in this sector.

Aside from being essential in reducing the excessive greenhouse gas emissions that have contributed to global warming, offshore wind projects are also a significant jobs boon. In Germany, even with its limited coastline, relatively modest offshore wind projects have already revitalized the entire supply chain, creating jobs from one end of the country to the other.

But two new offshore wind projects planned for the Maryland coastline off Ocean City are now in jeopardy. U.S. Wind and Skipjack Offshore Energy have been pursuing — for too many years already — the arduous process of approval for an offshore wind farm that would be the biggest in the U.S. The project is predicted to create more than 9,000 jobs for the region. But one man wants to kill it.

That man is Rep. Andy Harris, the lone Republican member of the Maryland Congressional delegation. Last week he introduced — and successfully got passed — an amendment in the U.S. House Appropriations Committee that effectively blocks the use of federal money to review site assessment or construction and operation plans for wind turbines less than 24 nautical miles from the state of Maryland shoreline.

That, say the developers, could kill the project dead. Those 9,000 jobs are poised for annihilation if the amendment is adopted by the full House and approved by the Senate, a strong possibility given the Republican control of both Houses.

With the Trump administration pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, it is more imperative than ever that towns, cities and states take the initiative to address the effects of climate change, which, among other factors, are creating a steadily more burdensome expense. Lacking the leadership at the top, we have to do this for ourselves. And for future generations.

But Rep. Harris doesn’t care about any of that. He complains that the wind turbines out at sea would spoil the view.

But for whom? Certainly not the tourists who flock to Ocean City beaches each summer. None of them is sitting sardine-packed with their neighbors, staring wistfully out to sea. There is too much else to do.

No, the view that Harris says he is fighting for belongs to the wealthy owners of shoreline homes. And those people don’t need the 9,000 jobs.

I have never been to Ocean City, but I’d venture to bet there are one or two uglier eye-sores downtown than the spindly specks that would be visible on the ocean horizon if the offshore wind turbines go in at the currently planned distance of 17-26 miles out. An illustration by Public Service Enterprise Group shows that even at 10 miles out, offshore wind turbines are barely discernible.

While it’s clear Harris doesn’t care a tinker’s cuss about climate change or his less affluent constituents, maybe he’s not that bothered about the rich ones either. Rather, the piper Harris is paying is actually the one that is paying him, and handsomely: the corporate world.

In 2014, Oil and Gas ranked fourth in his list of industry donors and 10th over his political career. Unsurprisingly, the fossil fuel-friendly Koch Industries is a loyal and prominent contributor along with the predominantly nuclear utility, Exelon and the petroleum behemoth, Exxon.

The “spoiled view” mantra really doesn’t wash. What Harris is doing is a disservice to his community and to his country. Come re-election time, those 9,000 job candidates should send Harris a message — by sending him packing.

*Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear, a Takoma Park, Maryland-based non-profit that advocates for renewable energy and an end to the use of nuclear power.

Linda Pentz Gunter

Takoma Park

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