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Commentary Energy & Environment

This Veterans Day, Time to Reflect on Climate Change

As a Marine, a Maryland resident and a citizen, Veterans Day reminds me to take a moment and reflect on all of the freedoms that we hold so dear in this great republic of ours. Most of all, the life lessons and friendships that have endured. I was fortunate to spend 30 years both active and reserve in the U.S. Marine Corps. From private to colonel, I saw all sides of service.

One of the most dangerous tasks on a battlefield is the transportation of fuel for vehicles and generators. In 2009, I was part of the USMC Commandant’s Task Force for Expeditionary Energy and Water, which helped develop the framework for a plan to incorporate renewable energy sources onto the battlefield. We looked at using portable solar panels for everything from communications to recharging batteries.

After retiring in 2010 I formed SPH Solutions LLC. SPH Solutions is a Maryland-based, service-disabled veteran-owned small business. The purpose of the business is to hire military veterans and contractors for opportunities in the solar- and energy-related industries. The second purpose is to produce a sustainable energy source that limits the need for the use of fossil fuels and the importation of foreign oil into the U.S. energy grid.

Col. Jim Donlan

Jim Donlan

Solar energy and U.S.-produced energy is a pathway to achieving U.S. energy independence from foreign oil. We are dedicated to decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign sources for our energy and reducing their links to funding global terrorism. Back home, our centralized, resource-dependent electric grid is vulnerable to new and evolving cyber-attacks.

I’m happy to have the opportunity to help homeowners, nonprofits and businesses cut their energy consumption, better control their electricity bills, and cut our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. The reasons why are plenty.

Here in Maryland, our centralized, resource-dependent electric grid is vulnerable to new and evolving cyber-attacks. Gas and coal plants contaminate our air and water and worsen global warming. Sea level rise threatens tens of thousands of homes on Maryland’s shore, and stands to cause billions of dollars in damage to our state.

Fortunately, we have the tools to fight climate change here in Maryland. With each new wind turbine or solar panel installed, we will shift away from fossil fuels and provide cleaner air and water for our children. We will cut our reliance on foreign sources of energy. Forty percent of Maryland’s electricity comes from out of state, so we when we move Maryland toward renewables, we will move Maryland toward energy independence as well.

Our leaders in Annapolis can step up as well. Next year, our clean energy leaders in the General Assembly will support the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act. This bill is supported by a supermajority of Maryland legislators in the State House and House of Delegates. When enacted, this policy will be a major step forward for our state’s climate goals, for energy independence and for the Maryland workforce.

It will create more than 20,000 new jobs over the next decade. It would ensure 50 percent of our state’s electricity will come from renewable sources of power, like wind and solar energy by 2030, then require legislators to develop a plan to reach 100 percent clean power by 2040. The MCEJA is an investment: by developing local clean energy, we will enable businesses like mine to hire more veteran workers.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has sounded the alarm: We need drastic action to address climate change quickly. We have 12 years to prevent a crisis that will resound throughout the globe, bringing new and unforeseen security threats.

Complex threats like climate change require bold action and strong leadership. That’s why this Veterans Day I will recognize those who have served our country in preparing for the evolving challenges ahead. We cannot afford to wait.

— Jim Donlan

The writer is CEO of SPH Solutions LLC.


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This Veterans Day, Time to Reflect on Climate Change