AUGUSTA — It’s time for Mainers of all stripes to come together to start to get our state off oil.

Staff Writer Tux Turkel’s “Households take the hit from spike in oil prices” (Feb. 27) provided a snapshot of the impact of rising oil prices on Mainers and the economy.

According to the Maine Sunday Telegram’s analysis, the recent surge in oil prices has increased energy costs for a typical Maine family that lives in an oil-heated home and has two cars by more than $1,400 a year — and the price surge just started in early September.

Oil prices are only expected to continue to rise in the coming months, with gasoline prices projected to be more than $4 per gallon this summer.

We’ve ridden the unpredictable roller coaster of oil prices for long enough.

Rather than forever being at the whim of a world oil market over which we have no control, Maine should finally commit to reducing our state’s oil dependence.

Maine is the fourth most oil-dependent state in the country, thanks to our heavy reliance on oil to both heat our homes and buildings and power our cars and trucks.

In fact, more than half of Maine’s energy comes from oil, leaving us extremely vulnerable to volatile oil prices.

For decades, Maine’s oil use has closely followed trends in the price of petroleum, meaning we cut back when prices start to sting but increase oil use when prices dip.

Maine’s dependence on oil is a huge drain on the state’s economy.

Collectively, Mainers spend nearly $15 million on oil every single day — the vast majority of which we ship out of state and overseas.

On the flip side, many of the solutions that would enable us to reduce our oil dependence — such as switching to high-efficiency pellet boilers, improving energy efficiency so we need less energy in the first place, and shifting freight transported in Maine from trucks to rail and marine transportation — would keep our dollars right here at home, building Maine’s economy in the process.

If having control over our energy future and building our state’s economy aren’t reasons enough for you to want to break free of our oil dependence, consider the impact our oil use has on our health and environment.

Our oil use is the leading source of air pollution in Maine. And, while large ads welcoming people at the Portland jetport and elsewhere claim that you can “Breathe Easy, You’re in Maine,” that’s not the reality.

Every county in Maine except Oxford County received a grade of C or worse for high levels of smog pollution in the American Lung Association’s 2010 State of the Air Report, and Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec, Knox, and York counties all received Ds or Fs.

High levels of air pollution contribute to serious health problems, such as asthma attacks and other respiratory problems.

Indeed, Maine has some of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. And air pollution creates haze and acid rain, obscuring views and eroding the health of ecosystems from Kittery to Calais.

The bottom line is that there are many reasons why we should finally get control of our energy future.

That’s why we’re sponsoring “An Act to Reduce Maine’s Dependence on Oil” (LD 553) to set clear goals to start to get Maine off oil. These goals are needed to finally make the transition away from oil a reality.

The bill would charge the state with developing a plan and making initial recommendations to the Legislature to help Maine’s entrepreneurs, investors and people of all stripes come together to achieve the goals.

We hope you’ll join with us to reduce Maine’s oil dependence and improve our economy, security, health and environment in the process.

 

- Special to the Press Herald