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Let's develop some positive energy

January 26, 2008

Maryland faces great challenges with climate change. The recent report from the Maryland Commission on Climate Change echoes longstanding concerns of other reports from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other credible groups about addressing climate challenges in a meaningful way.

As a member of the commission's Greenhouse Gas and Carbon Mitigation Working Group, I want to thank Gov. Martin O'Malley and our political leaders for bold policy recommendations that address our environmental challenges.

We are at a critical juncture, facing an enormous opportunity to alter our course. Whether we are dealing with Maryland's coastline and the long-term effects due to global warming or dealing with the fact that the world's availability of oil is systematically being eradicated, the fact remains that we must look toward new sources of energy.

At Frostburg State University, we have outstanding faculty members who have invested their time studying renewable sources of energy and understanding their impact. This past year, FSU's Renewable Energy Conference outlined and addressed many of the issues surrounding renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar, hydrogen and less well-known options. We are working hard to provide the educational tools to the workforce that will deal with this next generation of energy resources, in particular wind and solar energy, as its use expands nationally and internationally.

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One option that has been discussed is that of wind power in Western Maryland. There are significant amounts of available wind in the mountains of Western Maryland and economic need within our communities. Certainly the deregulation of electricity has caused us all to take another look at our monthly electricity bills, which have almost doubled.

Wind power projects produce no greenhouse gas emissions. I realize that people question their overall environmental impact - and I would expect this conversation to continue - but we need to assess quickly whether wind power should be considered as an option.

I have seen the expansion of wind turbines throughout all of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and even throughout New York.

As I was flying home from a recent trip to Denmark, our plane flew over scores of wind turbines positioned both offshore and throughout the country. Wind power already fulfills 20 percent of Denmark's energy needs, according to NBC News. The United States is far behind the rest of the world in the development of renewable energy. But we can catch up.

It would be unfortunate for Maryland to reject wind as an option, even as the state's policy leaders advocate advancing renewable sources, reducing our emissions that cause global warming. Discussion and debate about our energy future is as healthy as renewable energy itself.

This month, the state will hold public hearings on the future of wind project development in Maryland. It is important to participate in the process, to understand the issues we face and to make your views known. Please come to one of these sessions, both from 6:30 to 9 p.m., either on Jan. 30 at Garrett College's auditorium, or Jan. 31, in the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

Comments may also be made online at www.dnr.state.md.us/sustainability/wpm.

Jonathan Gibralter,
president of Frostburg State University.

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