Report: Clean Energy for Maryland

A Blueprint for Action

Policy Options to Reduce Maryland's Contribution to Global Warming
Released by: Environment Maryland Research and Policy Center

Executive Summary

Global warming poses a serious threat to Maryland’s future well-being and prosperity. To avoid the worst impacts of global warming, Maryland needs to reduce its global warming pollution 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, setting an example for the rest of the nation to follow.

Thankfully, many technologies and policy tools exist that could substantially reduce Maryland’s contribution to global warming, while moving the state toward a clean, secure energy future. Maryland has already taken several significant steps to cut its global warming pollution, but vast opportunities to further reduce emissions remain untapped.

This report details nine policy strategies, in addition to four steps already taken, that would cut Maryland’s emissions of carbon dioxide—the leading greenhouse gas—by 20 percent below 2006 levels by 2020. Adoption of these strategies will put Maryland on course to reducing its contribution to global warming in line with what scientists believe will be necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Global warming is happening now and poses a serious threat to Maryland’s future.

    Global average temperatures increased by more than 1.4Ëš F in the past century. Sea level is rising, ice and snow cover are decreasing, and storm intensity has increased.
    According to the consensus view of the scientific community, human activity—particularly the burning of fossil fuels—is the primary cause of global warming. Fossil fuel consumption releases carbon dioxide, which traps radiation from the sun near the earth’s surface. Since 1750, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 35 percent—leaving the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere higher than it has been in the last 650,000 years.
    World average temperatures could increase by another 3 to 7° F above late 20th century levels by the end of this century, depending on future emissions of global warming pollutants. Sea level could rise by between 11 and 17 inches, threatening low-lying coastal areas. And the ecological balance upon which life depends would be irrevocably altered.
    Maryland, with its 3,100 miles of tidally influenced coastline, is highly susceptible to negative impacts from global warming. For example, sea level rise could inundate thousands of acres of land over the next century, while increasing vulnerability to coastal flooding from major storms.

Immediate action is needed to prevent the worst impacts of global warming. Scientists tell us that if we act quickly and aggressively to reduce global warming emissions there is a much greater chance of staving off the worst impacts of global warming. To keep global temperatures from rising by more than 2.0Ëš C (3.6Ëš F), the world will need to halt the growth of global warming pollution in this decade, begin reducing emissions soon, and slash emissions by more than half by 2050. Because the United States is the world’s largest global warming polluter, the degree of emission reductions required here will be greater than in less-developed countries.

By making a commitment to reducing global warming pollution and setting in motion the changes that will meet that target, Maryland can reduce its own significant contribution to global warming while encouraging others to do the same.

Emissions of global warming pollution are on the rise in Maryland.

    Between 1990 and 2004, Maryland’s emissions of carbon dioxide from energy use increased by 16 percent. Electricity generation and transportation are the biggest sources of carbon dioxide pollution in the state (38 percent each), followed by the direct use of fossil fuels in homes (9 percent), industry (9 percent) and businesses (6 percent). (See Figure ES-1.) Maryland also produces emissions through the consumption of electricity generated in other states.

    Maryland is on a path that will lead to significant increases in global warming emissions over the next several decades. According to a projection based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Maryland’s emissions of carbon dioxide from energy use could increase by 19 percent over 2004 levels by 2020, with increases in emissions from the transportation sector responsible for the bulk of emissions growth.

Maryland has already committed to several actions that will curb the growth of carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. Over the past several years, Maryland has taken important steps to limit global warming emissions from power plants and cars and to increase the use of renewable energy for electricity generation. Maryland’s renewable electricity standard requires that 9 percent of the electricity sold in the state in 2020 come from renewable sources. In 2006, the state joined a regional agreement that power plants reduce their global warming pollution by 10 percent by 2019. Most recently, the state adopted standards that will reduce global warming pollution from new cars and light trucks by an average of 30 percent.

Maryland could reduce its contribution to global warming much further by adopting nine key policy strategies. There are numerous tools available to Maryland to reduce global warming pollution. The following policies can help the state reduce carbon dioxide emissions from energy use.

    Strengthen the renewable electricity standard. Maryland should increase its existing renewable electricity standard to require that 20 percent of electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020.
    Adopt a low-carbon fuel standard. A portion of motor fuel sold in Maryland should come from sources with lower life-cycle emissions than gasoline or diesel to reduce the carbon intensity of the fuel mix by 10 percent by 2020.
    Reduce the growth in vehicle miles traveled. Measures to reduce sprawling development and encourage the use of transit and other transportation alternatives could stop the per-capita growth in vehicle miles traveled by cars and light trucks on Maryland’s highways.
    Establish an energy efficiency goal. Spending 3 percent of electric utility revenues on energy efficiency each year would reduce electricity demand by 6.5 percent in 2020.
    Encourage combined heat and power. Maryland has the potential for 1,900 MW more of combined heat and power technology, which allows commercial and industrial facilities to use the same energy to generate both electricity and heat for buildings.
    Reduce government energy use. Maryland should increase the energy efficiency of existing state government by 25 percent and of new buildings by 50 percent, purchase at least 25 percent clean electricity in government buildings, and purchase efficient vehicles.
    Reduce the number of automobile commutes. Large employers should be required to develop programs to discourage single-passenger commuting and provide employees with more transportation choices to cut single-occupant vehicle commutes by 20 percent by 2020.
    Strengthen building energy codes. Stronger energy codes for residential and commercial buildings would reduce energy use and thus global warming pollution.
    Require energy-saving replacement tires. By requiring the sale of energy-saving replacement tires, Maryland can improve vehicle efficiency without negatively affecting safety.

Adoption of these strategies would reduce global warming pollution while improving Maryland’s energy efficiency