SCARBOROUGH — A little over a year ago, I wrote a Maine Voices column discussing the urgency of Maine people and businesses embracing green technology in order to both lessen our dependency on foreign energy and create new jobs.

Unfortunately, as goes our nation, so goes Maine in its failure to embrace financially compelling energy solutions that would not only make our business community competitively stronger but would also not leave our present and future beholden to out-of-state and foreign energy sources.

As an ever-increasingly entitled society, we seem willing to do little more than sit and wait for our government to solve the crisis.

The fact that 40 percent of every dollar being spent is borrowed — or that the U.S. debt burden has now reached $200,000 for every man, woman, and child — should be enough to conclude that the government does not have the means.

I don’t mean to suggest that government can play no role. The Efficiency Maine program saving Mainers more than $400 million since 2002 is one example.

And perhaps Gov. LePage could work with the natural gas suppliers in Maine to bring more efficient and cleaner natural gas solutions to more homes and businesses.

Additionally, Portland’s historic building regulations could allow for the easier adoption of solar solutions.

Yet our energy dependency problem cannot and will not be solved by the government. And the issue urgently requires our attention, as it has so many times in the recent past.

Heating oil and gasoline at $4 per gallon will add enormous costs to Maine’s economy. On-average $4 gas means $825 more in cost to each Maine family. If the increase in heating oil continues, it will cost Maine an additional $240 million per year. Together, just the increase in gasoline and heating oil will add more than $650 million in new costs to the Maine economy.

Most of this money will flow out of state. Whatever the current cost of fuel, Maine is using 1.6 billion gallons of oil per year; all one needs to do is multiply this number by the current price to understand the impact this has on our economy. This does not include expected electricity cost increases and water cost increases in some municipalities.

Maine spends more than $1.5 billion per year on electricity, and much of this power is derived from natural gas.

Since this is not the first time we have faced rising fuel costs, one would expect that we would have made measurable progress toward energy independence.

Yet 2010 saw that the 10 top-selling autos included three full-sized pickups and not a single hybrid or clean diesel or any car averaging over 35 mpg.

While Mainers’ spending on new kitchens and recreational vehicles has picked up since the recession, Efficiency Maine had to run a summer promotion to raise interest in its already substantial rebates for home energy improvements.

We think little of spending $10,000 on granite countertops and stainless appliances, yet scoff at the similar cost of a solar domestic hot water system.

A $35,000 vehicle with leather seats is worth the money, while a $22,000 50 mpg Prius is not. Furthermore, walks through the Old Port or the Maine Mall both bear witness to the continued use of highly inefficient lighting among those businesses.

If Maine is going to become more competitive and if individuals are going to preserve more of their income and savings, we will have to embrace energy efficiency solutions.

The retail establishment that installs a high-efficiency boiler and energy-efficient lighting will be able to offer lower prices compared to its competition. The landlord who installs a solar hot water system and natural gas monitor heaters can rent at lower cost and attract better tenants.

The family that invests in solar power or an EnergyStar-rated woodstove will begin taking back from that 20 percent of gross income the average Mainer is currently spending on energy.

Good examples already exist.

Three years ago, the Orvis Outlet in Manchester, Vt., installed 300 LED lightbulbs at a cost of $7,500. Annual electricity savings are about $8,000; the lamps have already paid for themselves three times over.

At the Bonobo Pizza building in Portland, tankless gas water heaters were installed at a cost of $2,000 several years ago, saving approximately $1,800 per year. The savings will be more pronounced as the price of oil rises. Oakhurst Dairy states that it is saving 5,000 gallons of oil per year through its 2008 solar installation.

For those families and businesses willing to make the investment, solutions for energy independence exist now.

Our future competitiveness will, in part, depend on what investments we make now toward energy independence.

– Special to The Press Herald