2019 | Government

Cardin Talks Energy Policy, Transportation at Gaithersburg Auto Showroom

Senator says solar roof an example of needed infrastructure

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Sen. Ben Cardin

Dan Schere

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) called the federal government to prioritize sustainable energy policies Monday afternoon as he toured Fitzgerald Auto Mall in Gaithersburg to promote a new solar roof.

The auto mall campus includes Gaithersburg Toyota, Hyundai, Subaru and Toyota dealerships and service centers. In May, the campus debuted a 45,000-square-foot roof on top of the parking deck, made of more than 2,400 solar panels

The solar panels provide 83% of the campus’s power and can provide enough energy to power 75 homes per month. The roof, according to a press release, saves 1.7 million pounds in carbon emissions.

“What an incredible investment in our community, saying, ‘Look, we can figure out a way to meet part of the solution on climate change, reducing the amount of carbon footprint,’” Cardin told employees gathered at the bottom of the parking deck on Monday.

Cardin said auto mall founder and Chairman Jack Fitzgerald is a business owner making a difference by implementing a sustainable energy practice.

Sen. Ben Cardin, left, and Jack Fitzgerald. Photo by Dan Schere.

Cardin briefly thanked Congress for passing a two-year budget deal just before its August recess, saying it would help avoid further government shutdowns. He also shared concerns on national issues such as gun control and immigration.

During a question-and-answer portion, one man asked Cardin whether he supported additional disposal fees for various types of waste, such as plastic water bottles.

“Moving forward, we could have ideas like this to move away from having everything being thrown in the landfill,” the man said.

Cardin said having more disposal fees is a potential free market solution to the problem.

“The number-one [issue] is, how do you deal with the energy, environmental crisis we have today? Yes, we’re doing it today with solar energy.

“But why don’t we put a price on carbon? Quite frankly, the energy producers like that, because they’ll figure out better ways to deal with energy production. You’re then rewarded for having a small carbon footprint,” he said.

Later, when asked about how to resolve the Washington region’s traffic problems, Cardin said more investment in transportation infrastructure is critical.

“We’re not maintaining our systems. We saw what happened with the Metro system when it was not maintained properly,” he said.

In an interview after the event, Cardin said Congress is working on legislation to authorize 10 years of federal funding to Metro, but he did not know of a specific timeline.

Asked about Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to widen interstates 270 and 495, Cardin said it is currently “a state issue.” But he said the federal government could play a role later on whether to raze federally protected parkland to make way for the widening.

“It’s federal parkland that will require legislation to change, and then we get involved and we’ll certainly be looking at all the consequences,” he said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com