Why not use wind power in Maryland?
It made my feet sweat. When the credits began to roll and Melissa Etheridge’s voice boomed on the speakers at the end of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” the first thought that came to mind was the doomed future of humanity, followed by images of what my bedroom would look like flooded.
In any case, Mr. Gore’s presentation prompted me to think — how can we solve this problem?
The theory behind global warming is that carbon dioxide, emitted from the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and gas, thickens the atmosphere allowing heat from the sun to enter but not get out. Hence, the planet gets warmer. Even if you don’t believe in the theory, pollution poses a serious problem and ways to reduce it must be found.
A popular choice for alternate energy is wind, a gift from Mother Nature that never ceases to stop giving. Ironically, during George W. Bush’s tenure as governor of Texas, the former oilman adamantly supported wind energy. Today, Texas is home to 2,631 wind energy projects — the most in the nation. Unfortunately, Mr. Bush has not advocated strongly for such projects as president.
During the 1980s, wind turbines earned a not-so-nice reputation as being noisy and ugly obtrusions. But technological improvements in the past 20 years have made them more appealing and less expensive. They now cost about 20 percent of what they did in the 80s.
Maryland has no wind energy projects even though wind has zero emissions, turbines operate 65 percent to 80 percent of the time, installation takes only a matter of months (not years, like drilling structures), and they create jobs. Although an occasional bird dies due to the blades, the number is far fewer than the 97.5 million birds that die from flying into plate glass every year.
Due to Maryland’s small size, we would need nowhere near as many turbines as states such as Texas and California. Turbines work best when placed in open fields or on hilltops, both geological characteristics present in Maryland. Such projects are costly, but ultimately benefit the economy.
A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that by 2020 New Mexico will have increased renewable energy by 20 percent, increasing jobs by 4,760 and saving consumers $570 million.
Despite the many pros of wind energy, there is no possible way for wind to be the sole solution to our energy predicament. Like everything else in nature, wind is unpredictable and a substantial amount cannot be guaranteed, especially in times when energy use is at its maximum. Alternate energy projects must be implemented to accompany wind as well.
At the end of “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore pauses at a picture of the Earth from 4 billion miles out in space. “Our ability to live on planet Earth, to have a civilization” is what is at stake, he says. The two hottest years ever recorded were 2005 and 2006. Bizarre weather has caused infectious diseases, such as malaria, to spread to areas never thought possible. Nearly 279 species of plants and animals have moved closer to the poles disrupting food chains and breeding habits.
This is our only home, and the impact humans make on the Earth has dramatically increased with large population increases. We must stop and think not about what makes our lives easier now, but what will make them easier in the future. Solving this problem will have its expenses, but the cost of inaction will be far greater than all the money in the world.
Justin Snow is an editorial page intern at The Baltimore Examiner. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.