President Biden has pledged to cut fossil-fuel emissions sharply within the next decade. To meet that goal, his administration wants to deploy perhaps thousands of offshore wind turbines.

With the harmful, life-altering effects of human-caused climate change already being felt, it would be disastrous for the U.S., the world’s largest per capita polluter, to fail to meet its goal, and it would be difficult to do that without energy produced by offshore wind.

But it’s also left Maine’s lobster industry wondering if they fit in. It’s a legitimate question, and one Gov. Janet Mills has shown she will take seriously.

The Biden administration said last week that it, too, would consider the needs of fisheries as it decides where to place turbines. For the sake of entire Maine communities, they have to be held to it.

TOO GOOD TO PASS UP

It’ll be a difficult balance to find. But the potential of offshore wind is just too good to pass up, for the health of both our planet and economy.

The Biden administration announced at a conference in Boston last week that it plans to develop up to seven offshore wind farms on the East and West coasts and the Gulf of Mexico, eventually producing enough electricity to power more than 10 million homes – more than is produced now by all New England power plants.

Together, the projects could avoid about 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking nearly 17 million cars off the road for a year. The administration estimates the projects could create 44,000 jobs directly and another 33,000 indirectly as people are needed to develop, build and maintain the turbines.

The farms are being sited in federal waters off New York and the mid-Atlantic, the Carolinas, California, Oregon, Mexico and the Gulf of Maine, where two projects with Maine connections already are moving forward, a single-turbine demonstration project and a 12-turbine research area. Many states already have committed to purchasing power produced by offshore wind.

Both projects in our state use floating-turbine technology developed at the University of Maine, and both will test how it performs in real-world conditions. If successful, Maine would be on the cutting edge of a new, prosperous, long-term industry.

The technology could be used in places where the coastal shelf gets too deep too quickly, making it impossible to attach the turbines directly to the ocean floor. The Gulf of Maine fits that description, as do the waters off California and Oregon. In all, floating turbines are expected to account for almost half of the total offshore wind generation.

COASTAL CONFLICTS

But those areas are not without conflicts. Coastal homeowners and fishing groups worry about what offshore wind will mean for them. In Maine, members of the lobster industry have disrupted the construction of the two projects and protested the governor’s plans for more.

We believe the ocean is big enough for both the offshore wind and lobster industry, as long as everyone is prepared to compromise.

Gov. Mills has said much the same, and she’s backed it up with her actions. Mills put a moratorium on turbines in state waters closer to shore, where most lobstering occurs, and she delayed the application for the research area in order to minimize conflict with fishing grounds.

That’s the purpose of the research area as well: to figure out how to deploy deep-water wind turbines, and perhaps get Maine a piece of a new billion-dollar industry, without hurting the one already in our waters.

Mills is taking the concerns of the lobster industry seriously. Biden must too. He has to understand that the industry is besieged now with multiple challenges, making them feel this as a threat rather than the challenge and opportunity it is.

And as progress is made toward Biden’s climate goals, the president has to recognize the real fear many Americans have that these actions will harm them, at least in the short term. They fear that the society-altering changes necessary to push back against the existential threat of climate change will fail to take their lives into account, forcing them to take on too much of the burden.

The effects of unmitigated climate change, of course, would be much worse, and nearly everything – our health, our well-being, in some cases our lives – depends on us embracing clean energy and ending our use of fossil fuels.

But leaders need to recognize that getting there will have consequences that must be considered.

When it comes to Maine’s lobster industry, Mills has proved she’ll do that. We need the same from President Biden.


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