This year’s Earth Day was both happy and sad. For all the environmental gains we have made as a country, we are faced with a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that may have massive repercussions.

This oil drilling rig disaster is a highlight of our horrible addiction to petroleum and flies in the face of the industry’s idea that drilling technology is safe. We are reminded of the Republican chant, “Drill, baby, drill.” I see otherwise.

It is horrifying to me to see these rigs and more on the way. It is a horrible decision to drill more off the coasts, including the most fragile ecosystem in North America, the Arctic coastline.

Can you imagine if oil were to spill off the Alaskan coast? Not only would coastlines be ruined for lifetimes, but we would not be able to operate in these harsh climates to attempt a cleanup. It is another horrifying idea that we are destroying the Arctic with global warming temperatures, but we are adding insult to injury by drilling and destroying what is left.

When will we ever learn? embracing oil drilling, we are promoting a technology and resource that at best could only supply a few short years of our existence. We need to make drastic and significant changes to our energy policy. Green is the future, one in which conservation, hydro, geothermal, solar and wind could give us 100 percent of our energy needs and never kill anyone.

Paul Weiss

Cumberland

Last month, the Coast Guard completed a two-day exercise simulating a spill of over 2 million gallons of crude oil from a damaged tanker that had the potential of impacting 500 miles of New England coastline.

Ironically, the exercise was launched on the 21st anniversary of the 11-million-gallon Exxon Valdez spill, one of the worst environmental disasters in our nation’s history.

According to early reports, the Coast Guard estimated that only 10 percent of the oil was recovered in 48 hours. This reinforces the fact that, regardless of the heroic actions of the cleanup crews, a spill is largely uncontrollable.

Shell Oil, which picked up most of the costs for the Maine exercise, is currently pushing forward with plans to drill in America’s Arctic. Oil rigs could start drilling as soon as this summer in one of our nation’s most remote and fragile marine environments, already ravaged by climate change.

The Arctic Ocean is covered by sea ice much of the year and is rendered inaccessible by stormy weather conditions. Despite this, Shell is pushing ahead without proven technology or capacity to clean up a major oil spill in the Arctic.

Shell needs to study the results of this exercise and learn from history before plundering one of our nation’s greatest natural treasures.

John Demos

Northeast representative of the Alaska Wilderness League

South Berwick

As an owner of Evergreen Home Performance of Rockland, a small home-performance contracting company, I was pleased to read the Portland Press Herald editorial on April 7 titled “Maine should tap best energy source: Efficiency.”

We evaluate homes and install improvements to make them more energy efficient. I can personally testify to the benefits of saving energy and money for homeowners while creating jobs for the unemployed.

Due to the new Efficiency Maine Home Energy Savings Program, we have experienced an upturn in business and recently hired three new workers who had been unemployed. However, the limited funds of Efficiency Maine’s $9 million program won’t go far in covering the state’s 477,000 homes.

Right now the U.S. Congress is also considering a program called Home Star that would provide more incentives to help Americans improve the efficiency of their homes and revitalize the construction industry. If Congress passes this legislation, it would create a national program to provide direct rebates to homeowners who invest in qualifying home energy-efficiency improvements.

Maine may well benefit from this program much more than other states due to our cold climate and inefficient, oil-heated older homes.

Energy-efficiency improvements are labor intensive and good for employment. The homeowners benefiting from these rebates would also stimulate their local economies as local workers install the energy-saving retrofits. In addition, about 90 percent of the material used in these improvements is produced in the United States, further spurring domestic job growth. The Home Star program would provide low-interest financing that will allow Maine families to start saving money immediately, achieving instant cash-flow-positive results.

Why not put people to work in a way that makes wintertime comfort more affordable for Maine families, reduces Maine’s dependence on fossil fuels and reduces our carbon emissions?

Richard Burbank

Rockland 

Comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation is a critical first step in addressing the climate crisis, creating millions of clean energy jobs across the nation and reducing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

We will send a billion dollars overseas to support our oil addiction today. We’ll do the same thing tomorrow, and again the day after that and the day after that, unless we make a collective decision to take action and change the paradigm of how we produce energy here in the United States.

Investing in clean energy will keep more of that money here at home and create good-paying jobs for our friends and neighbors. With unemployment at 9.7 percent, we cannot afford to wait.

With comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, we could create as many as 12,000 jobs in Maine and save households up to $1,317 per year. According to the Department of Energy, Maine generates a larger share of its electricity from non-hydroelectric renewable resources than any other state.

As of December 2009, Maine had about 175 megawatts of installed wind capacity in the state, enough to power more than 240,000 Maine homes. Developing Maine’s full wind potential could generate enough electricity to power approximately 8.8 million homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

The proposed 51-megawatt Oakfield Wind project in Aroostook County by Evergreen Wind Power II has been approved by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and will comprise 34 turbines with the capacity to produce sufficient clean and renewable energy to power more than 20,000 households.

I urge Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe to work with their colleagues to look for solutions, and support comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this spring.

Andrew Mason

Topsham 

In America, we take pride in our vast landscapes, natural parks, coastlines and waterways that distinguish our nation from others around the globe.

Yet despite all we’ve been given, we have much to lose if lawmakers don’t take immediate action to address the real danger posed by global climate change.

Aside from the environment itself, human health is in peril because of fossil fuel pollution, and inaction will only jeopardize the air our children and grandchildren breathe and the water they drink.

Our leaders in Washington cannot break the grip of special interests. Unfortunately, big oil, big coal and big businesses are holding back our progress in order to maintain the status quo that lines their pockets at the expense of public health.

In the spirit of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we call on leaders in Congress to take a stand for once on principle. We have a unique opportunity to write a new chapter in America’s history, and it starts with our senators supporting meaningful and comprehensive climate and energy policy.

For the sake of our nation’s future, let’s stand up together and enact policies that protect our environment, our health and our unique way of life.

John Bernard

South Portland 

In a lame attempt to bash President Obama and, most likely, reading from the daily GOP talking points, Bob Stinson’s April 21 letter makes a huge factual error — and dare I say it — tells a big whopper.

He stated that oil prices are “now” at an all-time high. Not true by a wide margin. Bloomberg.com reports that the price of a barrel of oil at 8:13 a.m. on April 21 was $83.89.

CNN reports at money.cnn.com that on July 3, 2008, the barrel price hit $145.29. Stinson made a nice try but next time should get his facts straight. He may be able to fool some of the people who will believe anything negative about our president. the way, doesn’t anyone fact-check at The Press Herald before a letter is printed?

Stephen Gleit

Portland 

Now that the health care debate may start winding down, it is critical that we turn our national attention to the global climate-change challenge ahead of us.

We appreciate that our U.S. senators have not been sidetracked by attacks on the Clean Air Act. Now they must push forward and do all they can to move comprehensive climate and energy policy changes through Congress.

Despite what you may have heard, the biggest prediction of global climate change is not necessarily warmer temperatures, but more erratic (and severe) weather.

We certainly continue to experience this in Maine. Last month, lakes in the southern two-thirds of the state became ice-free an entire month earlier than normal. There was historic flooding in parts of New England. Is this a harbinger of things to come?

As a Maine citizen, an active sportsman and a part-time Maine Guide, I am concerned about what the changes to our Maine climate will do to our trout and salmon fishing, hunting, skiing and snowmobiling. I’m also concerned about Lyme disease, asthma attacks and coastal residents pounded by sea-level rise and severe storms. Both our jobs and our recreational pursuits may be at risk.

We don’t know exactly what the climate change in Maine will bring, nor do we know exactly what humans have contributed to it. But don’t we all intuitively believe that less man-made gas in the atmosphere is a good thing?

We need Maine senators to make passing a comprehensive energy and climate change bill a priority. It could — in the long run — improve Maine’s economy and health even more than the so-called “health care” bill.

Lou Zambello

Cumberland 

Discourteous driver should walk in pedestrian’s shoes 

To the man in the turning black SUV who yelled to me, “Do you really have to walk so slow?” as I limped through the intersection of Spring and High streets about 1 p.m. on April 21 (in the crosswalk, with the “Walk” light on):

Yes, in fact I do. But I’m having hip replacement surgery very soon, so I’ll never be a nuisance to you again.

I realize that empathy is out of fashion, but simple civility goes a long way.

Ellen D. Murphy

Portland