Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Maine can be alternative energy leader

Portland Press Herald
Maine Voices

However, a focus on developing options that aren't based on fossil fuels will require an investment.

Richard W. (Rick) Smith
January 8, 2008

Take a moment to consider the facts, and you'll find a close
connection between oil price increases and the return of real
manufacturing jobs to Maine.

We have 2 trillion barrels of so-called "proven" reserves using
the most optimistic and "reasonable," but inherently suspect,
estimates. With consumption at 40 million barrels per day, about
double the present, but rapidly increasing, rate of consumption,
that's 50,000 days worth of oil -- or 136 years.

But, it is more likely that the rest of the world will start
consuming at the U.S. rate. China and India together have about
10 times the U.S. population.

That means those 2 trillion barrels will be used at a rate of 200
million barrels a day. That's 10,000 days -- or just 27 years.

Whether it's 136 years or 27, the perception is that higher prices
signal "the end" of our economic well-being, as predicted in a
film released in November called "A Crude Awakening: The Oil
Crash." We should realize that higher prices can bring a boom to
Maine not a disaster, because the money will flow to new places.

Today, our energy cash goes to sheiks and speculators.

Tomorrow that same money, not "new" money, will go to
workers on the assembly lines of shale oil extracting equipment,
coal gasifiers, biomass harvesters and processors, solar arrays,
wind machines, tidal turbines, fuel cells, biological and chemical
fuel production facilities, and a wide array of machinery for
homes and businesses designed to use these new energy
sources efficiently.

Those manufacturing workers need not all be in Dubai, Saudi
Arabia, Venezuela, or for that matter India, China, Japan or even
Canada. The next industrial revolution will be well-distributed,
but not to Maine unless we bring it here.

Many Washington County residents hoped for a job in a casino.
Those hopes have been dashed, but perhaps can be replaced
with jobs manufacturing the equipment to harness, store,
distribute and use power from that county's substantial wind
and tidal resources.

The Legislature has adopted greenhouse gas reduction goals,
and encouraged businesses to measure and reduce their carbon

The governor and Legislature created offices, committees and
task forces on wind, renewable hydrogen, future prosperity,
energy security, renewable electricity portfolio standards,
biomass fuels and complementary technologies and ideas.

But there is as yet no coordination and there is no money to put
these ideas to work.

Massachusetts now cites the clean-energy sector as its 10th
largest industry group and is taking steps toward making it the
third-largest industry sector in the Commonwealth.

Gov. Deval Patrick has combined his energy and environmental
departments into a single executive office that includes public
utilities, recognizing the connection between a clean
environment, energy, public utilities and job growth.

Minnesota has allocated $4.6 million over five years to map out
a renewable energy fuel plan for hydrogen alone. Multiyear,
multimillion-dollar programs in New York, California, Florida
and other states are producing new industries, new incentives,
new research and new jobs in clean energy.

Maine has taken many excellent "first steps" in these areas. It is
time fund these renewable energy planning and program efforts
with $10 million over the next five years, and assure that a
single office is responsible for coordinating the effort to assure

Success means industrial jobs for Maine for the next half century
and beyond, as we replace foreign crude oil with energy and
energy equipment that's made in Maine.

— Special to the Press Herald

Copyright © 2008 Blethen Maine Newspapers

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