The cold air on our backs in recent days may make it difficult for Mainers to believe 2014 is on pace to be the hottest year on record for the planet, according a recent U.N. analysis. And while our temperatures may not be unusually high here in Maine, scientists say we already are experiencing the impacts of global warming, such as shrimp fishery closures and diseased lobsters caused by warming seas.
None of us wants to leave the next generation a world where extreme weather, rising seas and collapsed fisheries are the new normal. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, scientists are clearer and more emphatic than ever before that we must cut our dependence on dirty fossil fuels in favor of clean, renewable energy. A new report called “ More Wind, Less Warming” from Environment Maine Research & Policy Center shows wind power can be a key player in that clean energy future.
Wind power already is growing rapidly here in Maine and around the country and generates enough electricity to power more than 15 million homes. A major contributor to this growth has been two important federal tax credits for wind power that, despite bipartisan support, were allowed to expire last year. We need Congress to show leadership on this issue and extend the tax credits through 2015, instead of the mere three-week extension passed by the House. This will ensure recent growth keeps up its rapid clip, and wind power could provide 30 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030.
Wind energy off Maine’s coast and elsewhere across the country is poised to make a major contribution to America’s energy portfolio, providing enough electricity to power 17 million homes nationwide under a 30 percent wind scenario, including enough offshore wind here in Maine to power 1 million homes. That’s more than is created by all wind power projects in operation today.
Our research shows speeding wind power development in this way will slow global warming. The pollution reductions achieved would offset emissions here in Maine the equivalent amount as shutting down three coal plants and 254 nationwide. We would go above and beyond the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which requires a 30 percent cut in carbon pollution from power plants. We also would be well on our way to fulfilling the commitment the U.S. made in its landmark climate agreement with China.
More wind doesn’t just mean less global warming. It also means less of the air pollution that makes people sick, more of our increasingly precious water resources that can be saved and more jobs for Mainers.
To reach a vision of 30 percent wind energy by 2030, however, we need our leaders to act. We need our senators to ensure the federal tax credits for wind energy are extended through 2015. We also need support for the Clean Power Plan, particularly from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins given the new Republican leadership in the Senate, instead of the obstruction we’re seeing from congressional leaders. These new rules proposed by the EPA in June would be the first ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Power plants are the largest contributor to U.S. emissions and emit more carbon than any entire country except for China. These rules aren’t a cure-all for climate change, but they are the largest step ever proposed in the U.S. to cut global warming pollution and are essential to ensuring a clean and healthy future.
Together with solar and tidal power, wind power can replace the dirty energy sources of the past and move us toward a future in which we’re setting records for pollution-free energy, not worldwide temperatures. That’s the U.N. report we want to be reading 15 years from now.
Laura Dorle is a campaign organizer for Environment Maine. Katie Chapman is a project manager for EDP Renewables North America, LLC, a wind energy developer that is proposing a wind development in Aroostook County.