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editorial - 2/27/01 - mail

February 26, 2001

Energy conservation a good idea, but new state agency isn't needed



A Montgomery County delegate to the Maryland General Assembly says it's time to look at ways to conserve energy in the state. After watching what's happened in California in recent months, a little conservation would appear to be in order, but we oppose creation of a new state agency.

Funding the program would cost each Marylander just 75 cents per month, according to state Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, prime sponsor of the Energy Savings Investment Program.

According to Frosh, his program would raise $40 million to $50 million that would develop conservation programs for businesses and households, provide incentives for the use of energy-efficient devices and energy-conservation devices like storm windows. In addition, Frosh said, the program would also help low-income customers save energy.

How would all this be accomplished? With the amount of money Frosh is talking about, we see the potential for creation of a whole new state department, with permanent positions and a routine not unlike the emissions-control program. Despite the fact that that department has forced many Marylanders to give up or repair their pollution-emitting vehicles, the department isn't shrinking. On the contrary, its fees are going up, in part because it wants to test more vehicles in a shorter amount of time.

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That's not to say we oppose energy conservation. We'd just like to see the programs handled by existing state agencies, so that when conservation is accomplished, the new agency won't be dreaming up new jobs just to stay in business.

The one real incentive that might work wonders for energy conservation would be a law prohibiting utilities, fuel oil suppliers and the like from raising rates if consumer consumption drops as a result of conservation. In theory, energy savings in Maryland should provide energy suppliers with more goods for customers in other states.

And at some future date, all the cost-effective conservation measures will be in place and workers in the various departments can take on other tasks, instead of devising new ways to preserve their outmoded jobs.

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