Cove Point and climate change

Maryland small businesses can see the handwriting on the wall:  Climate change is going to have a real impact on their bottom lines.   That is one reason why 50 small businesses and business associations submitted a letter last week to the Maryland Public Service Commission in opposition to the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Cove Point, Md.

To succeed, small businesses need a robust economy.  Increasingly, that is going mean a clean energy economy based on renewable energy sources and greater energy efficiency. 

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In recent years, small businesses across the country have become painfully aware that they have far more to lose than big business when it comes to dealing with the impacts of climate change. From disruption to supply chains to physical damage from extreme weather, small business owners know they face high risk from rising greenhouse gas emissions. It is therefore not surprising that a 2013 poll conducted by the American Sustainable Business Council found that 63 percent of small businesses owners support EPA regulation of carbon pollution from power plants and 72 percent support incentives for renewable energy development. Small business owners and entrepreneurs know that their business, and our nation as a whole, will be best served by transitioning to renewable energy.

Many Maryland small businesses concerned about climate change  oppose further reliance on fossil fuels, the destructive impacts of natural gas ‘fracking,’ and projects that make Americans pay the costs for energy we don’t even use since Cove Point LNG is intended for export markets.

The good news for small businesses in Maryland is that clean energy is booming:

·         Energy Information Administration statistics that show how we are now setting a record for using electricity from solar thermal and photovoltaic sources. Since February 2013, American homes and businesses used on average 111 percent more solar electricity than in 2012. The latest data, for January 2014, show that solar electricity consumption was 142 percent higher than in January 2013.

·         Last year, a new solar system was installed in Maryland or elsewhere in the U.S.  every four minutes – culminating in over 100,000 systems by the end of the year. By the beginning of 2014, the US had installed 12 gigawatts of solar capacity, producing as much energy as 14.5 coal-fired power plants.   This year marks another important milestone – the US solar industry now employs more workers than the US auto manufacturing industry.  

Those statistics illustrate why Cove Point LNG is a wrong turn down a dead-end road for Maryland small businesses.  Business concerns about Cove Point and the possibility of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland include:

•        Exacerbation of climate change by greenhouse gases emitted throughout the fracking process, posing a number of challenges to businesses, particularly small businesses, such as supply chain disruptions, damage to infrastructure, and rising transportation costs.  Maryland’s coastal communities will be heavily affected by climate change in particular.

•        Maryland tourism?   Good luck after we’ve been fracked.  Fracking creates heavily industrialized landscapes, radically altering community character and crowding out economic drivers that are dependent on natural amenities, including tourism, agriculture, food and beverage, and recreation.

•        Exporting gas at Cove Point would create a 549 percent increase in massive tanker traffic. It would also put thousands throughout the region at risk from expansions to existing pipeline infrastructure that already is prone to leaks and ruptures that can cause fires and explosions.

•        Cove Point would steer resources to the fossil fuel economy and only produce 130 permanent jobs, whereas, for the same costs, the creation of Maryland offshore wind could result in 7,500 jobs.

•        Business owners, including farmers, pay higher prices for scarce resources like water and labor because of increased competition from drillers.

•        Fracking has greatly reduced or eliminated property values, and is making mortgages and insurance policies difficult to acquire.

•        If the Cove Point project proceeds, it will encourage more companies to expand fracking across our region, including in Maryland, where currently no drilling occurs.

Savvy business people understand that the mega-energy companies will rake in the profits from Cove Point, not communities and local business.  Studies have found that renewable energy produces more jobs than do fossil fuels per unit of energy delivered. Community-based businesses in our state know that what good for their neighborhoods is good for business – and that’s a big “yes” for more renewable energy and a big “no” for Cove Point LNG.

Teplitz is director of social investing and policy at Green America. Shaff is founding executive director of the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council.  The authors have no financial relationship or stake of any kind in the content above. Green America and the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council are not-for-profit organizations that work for a sustainable economy.