PORTLAND – What single national policy measure could help: 1) create jobs and stabilize the economy; 2) improve national security; and 3) address the most perplexing environmental challenges?

Comprehensive energy and climate legislation, that’s what. In our view, Congress can and should move the country forward by passing such a bill. Moreover, in this instance, what works for the nation will also be good for Maine.

What is needed is a national framework that sets targets to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and emissions of carbon pollution while spurring new energy innovation. Meeting the target will require greater energy efficiency and new renewable power — the very technologies that are Maine’s energy future.

PLENTY OF PAYOFFS

Payoffs include more security, energy independence and jobs. The same energy innovations can also benefit ratepayers by countering the volatility of petroleum prices.

Maine is burdened with the nation’s oldest buildings, greatest reliance on heating oil, high energy costs and relatively low personal incomes. As it is, 76 cents out of every dollar spent on heating oil leaves Maine and much of it leaves the country. These challenges require that we address both sides of the supply and demand equation.

To reduce demand, Maine is putting federal stimulus funds to work weatherizing old, inefficient buildings. We are also implementing new building energy standards. These efforts create new work in construction and save dollars.

As for supply, Maine is blessed with excellent renewable power sources from the deep ocean off our coast to the mountains. This spring, Maine saw the commissioning of the Stetson 2 wind power project. This 17-turbine addition to Maine’s portfolio of clean, renewable power provided hundreds of jobs and generated revenue for 89 Maine businesses. Harvesting wind, tidal, wave and even solar resources also reduces Maine’s emissions of greenhouse gases.

Energy climate legislation can provide a much-needed boost to our slowly recovering economy and clean energy will create opportunities in numerous fields, from scientists and engineers to electricians, manufacturing to construction trades.

Many businesses support energy climate legislation including major utilities and companies like General Electric, Apple, Weyerhaeuser, Johnson & Johnson and Dow Chemical. More than 500 Maine businesses have signed on in support.

Fortunately, there is bipartisan cooperation on federal energy and climate legislation. Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., have collaborated long and hard on a draft bill. Graham recently pulled back from co-sponsoring the bill but stated his “belief that becoming energy independent and better stewards of our environment are complementary — not competing — standards.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., collaborated with our Sen. Susan Collins to propose a separate and innovative “cap and dividend” bill.

Other countries are moving forward. Last year, China became the largest investor in renewable energy while such investments fell 42 percent in the United States, partly because of uncertainty about the national commitment.

China just completed its first offshore wind project, a 102-megawatt system off the Yangtze River. Though progress here is slower, Maine just enacted a law to implement recommendations of an ocean energy task force and enable our first ocean wind, tidal and wave power pilot projects.

ANSWERING SECURITY WORRIES

Energy is also a major security concern. As President Obama recently said, “We have a choice to make. We can remain one of the world’s leading importers of foreign oil, or we can make investments that would allow us to become the world’s leading exporter of renewable energy.”

While we have less than 4 percent of global oil reserves, we account for 24 percent of demand. Much of the oil is in the volatile Middle East, where we now station thousands of troops in an effort to increase stability and curb terrorism.

In its February 2010 “Quadrennial Defense Review Report” the Department of Defense noted the “significant geopolitical impacts” of climate change and stated that “climate change, energy security and economic stability are inextricably linked” and require a national response.

Legislation that puts a price on carbon will send market signals to spur investment to build clean energy infrastructure.

This is the rare opportunity to strengthen our economy and national security while taking action to protect the environment for future generations.

For the sake of our region and our country, we urge our elected officials in Washington to support comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation.

 

– Special to the Press Herald