Wasted State House Energy


Maryland does a very poor job in conserving energy. And one of the worst offenders is the state government itself. Now a group of experts, at the request of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, is drawing up a list of suggestions to make energy conservation a priority both for state government and for the private sector.

In May, Mr. Schaefer convened an "energy summit" to discuss Maryland's anemic conservation efforts. What has emerged is a list of moves that could be taken to spur power-saving. Incentives have to be found to make it worthwhile for both government and businesses to "turn out the lights."

Installing solar cells in state office buildings, for instance, might cut oil usage. Other steps to cut down on heat, air-conditioning and electric bills might follow -- if agencies can benefit from these savings. As it now stands, though, agencies have no motivation to conserve. The savings just mean their budgets get cut the following year by a comparable amount. But what if agencies were assured by the governor and legislature that energy savings could be used for other purposes? They would have a solid reason to lower energy costs.

The study also suggests that Governor Schaefer take the symbolic lead by driving a car fueled by an alternative power source. Why stop there? Why not convert part of the state's auto fleet? It would be a positive step in Maryland's battle against air pollution. It would send a message that the state is serious about cleaning up the atmosphere.

In the private sector, the study recommends a state energy building code for new homes, offices and factories. This would give builders incentives to produce energy-efficient structures, as well as a new selling point. Another provocative suggestion is requiring a "home energy rating system" for any house put up for sale.

A final plan, culled from these suggestions, will be presented to the governor later this year. We expect that Mr. Schaefer will ask the 1992 General Assembly to adopt a number of these recommendations. With Washington's energy-conservation crusade lagging badly at both the White House and in Congress, it is incumbent upon state governors and legislators to pick up the slack. Energy-saving steps not only hold the promise of long-term lower costs, but a cleaner environment, too.

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