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by Charlie Garlow | 2006

What Are the Big Issues in Air and Energy, and How Can You Help?

Heating oil, gasoline, and natural gas prices are gobbling larger chunks of the consumer dollar, and electricity customers are bracing for hefty rate increases this summer. But the upside is that people are thinking about alternatives, and friends of the environment can celebrate a legislative victory for clean air.

The President admits that we are “addicted to oil.” High gasoline prices have led to more serious comments from Congress about improving vehicle fuel efficiency.  Improving the Corporate Average Fuel Economy [CAFE] has been a long time Sierra Club priority, and maybe now something will really happen. The pinch at the pump has been encouraging people to bike, walk, take mass transit, buy high-efficiency hybrid electric cars, and consider other alternative fuels.

You can help. Bike, walk, take transit and if you must own a car, buy a hybrid. Buy one of the fuel-efficient ones, not the giant hybrid trucks which get 18 mpg, instead of 12 mpg !!! Did I mention bike, walk and take transit? It bears repeating!

Of course, there is the downside to oil prices at $70 or more a barrel. There is more pressure to drill in Alaska and offshore because of high gasoline prices. Energy companies are making record profits, which they will use to lobby against CAFÉ improvements and for drilling in Alaska and offshore.

High natural gas prices have caused the poor to suffer from higher heating bills. But rising prices have encouraged conservation and purchases of more efficient home-heating units.

You can help. Insulate. Upgrade your furnace. Buy a solar hot water heater, probably the most efficient solar purchase.

In addition to higher costs to the consumer, the downside to high natural gas prices is an increase in drilling. Coal-bed methane drilling is among the nastiest. Importing more liquified natural gas, LNG, will cause more money to be sent to overseas bad guys, increasing our trade deficit and causing heartaches for those who live near LNG terminals or new distribution pipelines needed to carry this supply of natural gas.

Electricity rates are being deregulated in Maryland, causing shock and awe for consumers receiving bills, and scrambling by politicians to answer public outrage. The electricity rate hikes carry many of the same pluses and minuses: pain in the wallet, but an incentive to conserve and consider alternatives like renewable electricity. They also embolden electricity producers to push for more nuclear power, which the Sierra Club has long opposed.

Meanwhile, global warming continues to get worse. Polar ice caps are melting even faster and the polar bear is on the endangered list. Coral reefs are dying off faster. Weird weather happens.


What’s Next in Maryland!

Following up our victory in passing the Healthy Air Act, we may focus our efforts on cleaning up car and truck emissions in the next legislative session. We have urged passage of a clean-cars bill in several past sessions, so the groundwork has been laid. Perhaps 2007 will be the year for Maryland to join several New England states and Canada in adopting the California clean-cars standard, which requires CO2 reductions. The California law is under legal attack by: guess who? The car companies and the Bush Administration. So much for conservatives’ support for states rights! 

You can help. Call your delegates/state senators and urge them to support a clean cars bill. Just before election time, they may be more responsive. Call 1-800-492-7122 toll free from Maryland phones at any time (leave a voice mail message in the middle of the night if you want!) to contact your state representatives.

Other good ideas, like more money for energy efficiency and solar power, cost the state money. We try to stay away from things that impose costs on the state, as that is a sure path to rat-hole oblivion in a money sub-committee.

Mark your calendars now for the Annual Tour of Solar Homes on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 7 and 8, 2006. Over 30 solar homes and office buildings will be on display. See for details. Call Charlie Garlow at 301-593-9823 if you want to help stop global warming.      



> 2006 Table of Contents


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