Friday, February 15, 2008

Speaker urges energy conservation

Kennebec Journal
February 15, 2008

WATERVILLE -- We hurt the environment, threaten public and economic health, and continue to depend on unfriendly nations as we gobble up costly foreign oil and gas.

Those are three good reasons we need to plan for becoming energy independent, said John Kerry, director of the Governor's Office of Energy Independence and Security.

Kerry spoke Thursday morning at Thomas College about Maine's effort to work toward energy independence while optimizing energy security, economic development and environmental health.

"The state does have an energy policy, but like any other policy, it is evolving," Kerry said.

About 35 people attended the Business Breakfast Meeting, hosted by both Thomas and the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce.

Kerry said he agrees with Albert Einstein that everything in the universe is connected and that we are inextricably bound to other nations via air, water and land.

So, it is important that in planning for energy use, we take into account other states, regions and nations, and look out for the elderly, the poor and those who are vulnerable to make sure they are warm and secure, he said.

Maine is 100 percent dependent on petroleum products and that needs to change, Kerry said. Wind, solar, tidal power and forests are sources of alternative power and the state must also focus on using less energy, he said.

"I, for one, do not want my children and their children to be harnessed to petroleum," he said.

Petroleum is located in unfriendly places in the world, making it dangerous for the United States to be so dependent on them, he added.

"Our security is at risk and you cannot have energy independence without security," he warned.

Kerry's office is working to develop public and private partnerships to seek energy independence while using clean, reliable and renewable energy resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Maine will work to move away from reliance on fossil fuels to create a sustainable energy culture -- especially with young people, according to Kerry.

"We have to create a culture that respects various components of our resources," he said.

Maine's plan includes strengthening energy efficiency and conservation by working with families and businesses; encouraging energy savings in public buildings; and promoting investment in energy conservation through grants and loans.

Fostering renewable energy such as wind, solar, tidal and geo-thermal, supporting use of biofuels, improving energy transportation efficiency and reducing fuel use also are part of the plan. An energy response team would respond to energy emergencies such as a shortage of fuel, national gas or electricity -- or an impending shortage.

Chamber member Doug Carnrick asked if the term "energy independent" is a fallacy.

Kerry said he did not think being energy independent is a fallacy and we should aim for it. But he said it is unrealistic to think we will be energy independent in the near future. Mainers must plan for 100 years into the future, he said.

Kerry is a former state senator and representative. He holds a master's degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, as well as a master's degree in planning from the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work.

Amy Calder -- 861-9247

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