Our climate is changing. We have seen an increase in the frequency and severity of violent storms, multi-year-long droughts in the heartland and the American West, recurring severe heat waves, wildfires and sea level rise. In Maryland—where 70% of the population lives in coastal areas—we are already seeing the impact on our communities. Damaging and unpredictable storms have brought historic flash floods to Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties this summer, stranding commuters and destroying vital infrastructure. Meanwhile, sea-level rise has already become a monthly nuisance for our port communities. In 2018, Annapolis and Baltimore suffered from a combined 12 days of “sunny day” flooding, or temporary floods caused by exceptional high tides.
Whether we like it or not, climate change is happening and human activity has been a significant contributor to this crisis. The science tells us that it will have devastating and far-reaching consequences for the environment, human health, the economy, as well as global peace and prosperity. Given the sheer scope of this challenge, we urgently need to focus on mitigating its impact and becoming better stewards of the earth. A concerted effort to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy presents a significant step in the right direction.
Technologies harnessing wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal and other renewable energy sources can power the nation without the harmful pollution and environmental degradation that come with fossil fuels. Developing these energy sources will make us more secure, create thousands of good-paying jobs, grow our economy and protect our environment for future generations.
Every year, thousands of jobs are being added in this fast-growing sector of our economy. Supporting renewables not only will give us a fighting chance against climate change, but also will help to bring our economy into the 21st century by creating local jobs for the future.
That is why my colleagues and I have introduced legislation to spark investment in offshore wind power—a small, renewable-energy sector with high growth opportunity in Maryland. Our goal is to level the playing field nationally for renewable energy to compete with the fossil fuel industry that has received generous government subsidies for decades. The Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act would encourage the construction of offshore wind energy projects by extending the wind investment tax credit (ITC) at 30% for offshore wind projects that commence construction by January 2027 or the year after the United States has reached 3,000 MW of new offshore wind capacity, whichever is later. This would ensure that the credit is available until the offshore wind industry is able to make a larger contribution to our energy grid.
This is new technology, higher costs and longer development timelines make for a tricky operational reality for offshore wind compared to other renewable energy projects. This breeds a lack of competition in the industry, with too few companies pressing ahead with projects. A wind investment-tax credit has the potential to jumpstart the offshore wind industry by minimizing barrier to entry costs for small and medium-sized businesses and incentivizing more projects. With greater competition, these businesses will be better suited to develop cost-effective, efficient methods of delivering this clean energy that match the interests of local communities.
Maryland is ripe for offshore wind development, and companies are beginning to take note. Wind farm projects off the coast of Ocean City are currently in the planning phase, and a newly announced staging area at the Port of Baltimore, where wind turbines will be assembled and later shipped to sea, also is in the works. Local involvement at every stage of development will be crucial for success.
We need to do everything we can to support, bolster, and grow offshore wind so that it can deliver cost-effective clean energy and create thousands of American jobs along the way. Here in Maryland, a thriving offshore wind industry could help power the Eastern Shore, significantly reduce carbon emissions, and create thousands of good-paying jobs, all the while giving a hefty boost to the economy.
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) is a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.