The Fuse

Energy Policy 2016: Spotlight on Martin O’Malley

by R. Kress | June 26, 2015

Status: Declared candidacy on May 30, 2015

Party: Democrat

Career overview: O’Malley was the Governor of Maryland from 2007 until earlier this year. Prior to holding this post, he was the Mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007. A longtime Democrat, he backed now-rival Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential bid.

Offshore Drilling: O’Malley hinted at some potential energy policy initiatives in an op-ed he penned for the New York Times in February—several months before announcing his presidential bid. The impassioned article criticized the Obama administration to task for allowing oil and gas companies to drill along the Atlantic coast. A hot button issue for the largely coastal population of Maryland, O’Malley cautioned that if another disaster on the scale of BP’s Deepwater Horizon were to occur off the Chesapeake Bay, that it would have severe consequences for the densely populated area stretching from Richmond, VA to Atlantic City, NJ. He argued, to allow drilling in that area puts “states and communities with no say in drilling decisions” in the front-row seat for any potential problems that could arise. He also cited the region’s susceptibility to increasingly powerful hurricanes as a particular danger to the oil rigs that could populate the area, and a potential hazard going forward.

With oil prices at a low point, O’Malley noted that the US is currently the world’s leading producer of natural gas. In terms of crude oil production, the US ranks third. As a result, O’Malley asserted that there is no reason to expose the eastern seaboard to the risks inherent in offshore drilling.

Long term, O’Malley blasted offshore drilling as being in opposition to what should be our country’s top energy policy aims: “Achieving long-term energy security, creating sustainable jobs, supporting the development of new energy technologies and fighting climate change.”

Crisis is Opportunity: On O’Malley’s campaign website, he links climate solutions to job creation. “Clean, renewable sources of energy represent one of the biggest economic opportunities in a century… We must make better choices for a more secure and independent energy future—by limiting carbon emissions, setting renewable energy targets, driving innovation, seeding new industries, and creating good local jobs.”

Climate change: In 2007, O’Malley brought Maryland into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a coalition of several states on the eastern seaboard dedicated to cutting carbon dioxide emissions from plants in their states.

“I am proud that Maryland is joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which will protect and preserve our communities for future generations,” Governor O’Malley said upon signing the initiative. “The fight to prevent global warming crosses state lines, and Maryland is proud to join its neighbors in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while protecting our electric industry.”

Under his leadership, the state cut power plants’ carbon emissions from 35 million tons in 2006 to 22 million tons in 2012, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment. And while most of the US did see an overall drop in carbon emissions during that time, Maryland’s numbers dipped more than average while the state simultaneously saw population growth.

Electric Vehicles: Similar to pulling Maryland into the RGGI, O’Malley joined eight other states on the East and West coast, in a collaborative  action plan to develop the infrastructure, coordinated policies, codes and standards and a consumer market to put 3.3 million zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the road by 2025.

The Multi-State ZEV Action Plan is the first promised milestone for the bi-coastal collaboration, an effort to pave the way for increasingly large numbers of alternative fuel vehicles nationwide.

“This collaborative effort is an important step forward to ensure the success of our zero-emission vehicle programs. Transitioning our light duty transportation fleet to zero emission vehicles is essential if we are to achieve our long term air quality and climate goals,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Implementation of the action plan will support the arrival of more than 3 million zero emission vehicles in our states by 2025 and serve as a roadmap for a healthier, more sustainable transportation sector on both coasts.”

Together, the collaborating states account for more than 25 percent of new car sales in the nation every year.

Keystone XL: O’Malley has been vocal opponent of the pipeline—blasting it on Facebook for coming at too high of a cost in regards to CO2 emissions while not creating enough permanent jobs. In that same post, he pushed for the creation of a renewable energy based grid that, in his opinion, would create far more jobs in the long run than the Keystone Pipeline.

State Gas Taxes: In his 2012 State of the State Address, O’Malley proposed that the sales tax exemption on gasoline be phased out by 2 percent each year in order to fund critical infrastructure projects in the state. In an effort to protect consumers from experiencing pain at the pump in the event of a gas price spike, O’Malley also proposed a so-called “braking mechanism” enabling a pause on the exemption. He proposed to complement the funding infrastructure with funneling some of the increased revenues into an infrastructure trust fund. He estimated that this proposal would create some 7,500 new jobs.

Offshore Wind: O’Malley passed the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act in 2013, overcoming two past defeats to the bill. In the legislation, he offered subsidies to offshore wind energy developers. Although the bill that finally passed was a heavily scaled-back version of its initial 2011 version, the legislation would allow the state to contract construction of a wind farm off the coast of Ocean City by 2017. Residents and local businesses would contribute through a small surcharge each month to help support the project. Over 20 years, the subsidy would total some $1.7 billion.