Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Imbalances of Power

NY Times
May 21, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist


There has been much debate in this campaign about which of our enemies the next U.S. president should deign to talk to. The real story, the next president may discover, though, is how few countries are waiting around for us to call. It is hard to remember a time when more shifts in the global balance of power are happening at once — with so few in America’s favor.

Let’s start with the most profound one: More and more, I am convinced that the big foreign policy failure that will be pinned on this administration is not the failure to make Iraq work, as devastating as that has been. It will be one with much broader balance-of-power implications — the failure after 9/11 to put in place an effective energy policy.

It baffles me that President Bush would rather go to Saudi Arabia twice in four months and beg the Saudi king for an oil price break than ask the American people to drive 55 miles an hour, buy more fuel-efficient cars or accept a carbon tax or gasoline tax that might actually help free us from what he called our “addiction to oil.”

The failure of Mr. Bush to fully mobilize the most powerful innovation engine in the world — the U.S. economy — to produce a scalable alternative to oil has helped to fuel the rise of a collection of petro-authoritarian states — from Russia to Venezuela to Iran — that are reshaping global politics in their own image.

If this huge transfer of wealth to the petro-authoritarians continues, power will follow. According to Congressional testimony Wednesday by the energy expert Gal Luft, with oil at $200 a barrel, OPEC could “potentially buy Bank of America in one month worth of production, Apple computers in a week and General Motors in just three days.”

But that’s not all. Two compelling new books have just been published that describe two other big power shifts: “The Post-American World,” by Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International, and “Superclass” by David Rothkopf, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment.

Mr. Zakaria’s central thesis is that while the U.S. still has many unique assets, “the rise of the rest” — the Chinas, the Indias, the Brazils and even smaller nonstate actors — is creating a world where many other countries are slowly moving up to America’s level of economic clout and self-assertion, in every realm. “Today, India has 18 all-news channels of its own,” notes Zakaria. “And the perspectives they provide are very different from those you will get in the Western media. The rest now has the confidence to present its own narrative, where it is at the center.”

For too long, argues Zakaria, America has taken its many natural assets — its research universities, free markets and diversity of human talent — and assumed that they will always compensate for our low savings rate or absence of a health care system or any strategic plan to improve our competitiveness.

“That was fine in a world when a lot of other countries were not performing,” argues Zakaria, but now the best of the rest are running fast, working hard, saving well and thinking long term. “They have adopted our lessons and are playing our game,” he said. If we don’t fix our political system and start thinking strategically about how to improve our competitiveness, he added, “the U.S. risks having its unique and advantageous position in the world erode as other countries rise.”

Mr. Rothkopf’s book argues that on many of the most critical issues of our time, the influence of all nation-states is waning, the system for addressing global issues among nation-states is more ineffective than ever, and therefore a power void is being created. This void is often being filled by a small group of players — “the superclass” — a new global elite, who are much better suited to operating on the global stage and influencing global outcomes than the vast majority of national political leaders.

Some of this new elite “are from business and finance,” says Rothkopf. “Some are members of a kind of shadow elite — criminals and terrorists. Some are masters of new or traditional media; some are religious leaders, and a few are top officials of those governments that do have the ability to project their influence globally.”

The next president will have to manage these new rising states and these new rising individuals and networks, while wearing the straightjacket left in the Oval Office by Mr. Bush.

“Call it the triple deficit,” said Mr. Rothkopf. “A fiscal deficit that will soon have us choosing between rationed health care, sufficient education, adequate infrastructure and traditional levels of defense spending, a trade deficit that has us borrowing from our rivals to the point of real vulnerability, and a geopolitical deficit that is a legacy of Iraq, which may result in hesitancy to take strong stands where we must.”

The first rule of holes is when you’re in one, stop digging. When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.

Windmill project at heart of lawsuits in Freedom

Maine Coast Now

Town to vote again on commercial development review ordinance

By Megan Richardson
May 21, 2008

FREEDOM — Two lawsuits that could affect the wind turbine project have been brought against the town, weeks before residents will be asked to vote for a third time on the commercial development review ordinance that was repealed last year.

In addition to the lawsuits, Jeff Keating started a petition to put the re-enactment of the commercial development review ordinance on the ballot for upcoming elections. According to Town Clerk Cindy Abbott, Keating turned in a petition containing 38 signatures.

The question, “Shall an ordinance entitled Town of Freedom Commercial Development Review Ordinance be enacted with all of its provisions being retroactive to June 12, 2007?” will be voted on by secret ballot referendum June 10.

When asked to comment on the upcoming vote, First Selectman Ron Price said he would do so “as a citizen, not as a selectman.” Price said the vote is another way for people who are opposed to the windmill project to try to stop it from happening. He said there is a lot more to the ordinance than windmills.

“Take the windmill issue right out of it, I think the town of Freedom can do a lot better,” Price said.

He said the ordinance as a whole is very restrictive, and that a person interested in any sort of commercial development would likely have to hire a team of lawyers to get through the permitting process.

“It’s not a good ordinance,” Price said, adding that he did not support it when it was first enacted and does not support it now. He also expressed his confidence that the ordinance would not be re-enacted.

“I’m pretty sure the town won’t accept it,” Price said Tuesday. “I would bet on it.”

Details on the lawsuits

Attorney Ed Bearor served two lawsuits to the town early last week. One lawsuit was brought against Beaver Ridge Wind LLC, Central Maine Power and Price by Steve and Judy Bennett, David and Mary Ann Bennett, Jason Wade and Erin Bennett-Wade, Jeff Keating, Thomas Keating, Sallyann Hadyniak, and Amanda Martin, all owners of land abutting Beaver Ridge access roads. The lawsuit says that the access roads — Sibley Road Extension, Beaver Ridge Road, and Deer Hill Road — have been abandoned or discontinued by the town, and that the roads therefore now belong to the abutting property owners.

The suit goes on to say that because the roads belong to the plaintiffs, the defendants do not have the legal right to construct utility service or transmission lines, or to construct a new road needed for the windmill project.

Price, who according to the lawsuit owns a piece of property abutting the Sibley Road Extension, as well as portions of all three access roads, said Tuesday that while abandoned or completely discontinued roads do become the property of the abutting landowners, the date of abandonment or discontinuance depends on when the town last took legislative action on the roads.

He said the town took action in the 1950s on the Beaver Ridge Road, discontinuing it for maintenance only. He said that action declared that the road was to be held open as a public way forever.

Price also said that action was taken in the 1970s to discontinue the other two roads, for maintenance only, although it was not specified that they were to remain open. He said none of the roads have been completely discontinued, and that it is unclear who owns the roads now. He said in the case of the Beaver Ridge Road, though, that the town clearly meant to keep the road open as a public way.

The construction of new roads and utility and transmission lines is a necessary part of the plan for the windmill project on Beaver Ridge.

Portland-based Competitive Energy Services (CES) first approached Freedom about constructing windmills on Beaver Ridge in the summer of 2006.

The commercial development review ordinance was created in response to the proposed project, and according to a letter to the editor written by Freedom resident Glen Bridges, CES put its building permit application on hold while the town worked on the ordinance. The ordinance was passed in August 2006.

CES applied for a building permit in September 2006, and the planning board approved it in January 2007. Soon after, a group of Freedom residents appealed the permit, claiming the project could not meet standards in the ordinance. The anti-windmill group won their appeal.

Having lost that battle, supporters of the windmill project turned their attention to the ordinance itself.

Bridges started a petition to bring the repeal of the ordinance to a vote. On June 12, 2007, residents voted 159-112 to repeal the ordinance.

On June 25, CES submitted another building permit application. This one was approved July 12.

The second lawsuit brought against the town has to do with the denial of an appeal of that new building permit in March 2008. According to the lawsuit, Freedom’s building ordinance requires that work on a project be “substantially commenced” within six months of the issuance of a building permit.

In February, Steve Bennett, Jeff Keating and Erin Bennett-Wade asked Code Enforcement Officer Jay Guber to determine in writing whether the windmill project had been substantially commenced. When Guber determined that it had, they filed an appeal. The appeal was denied in a 3-0 vote.

In the lawsuit, Bennett, Keating and Bennett-Wade said the appeals board failed to deal with a conflict of interest concerning one of the members of the board of appeals.

They asked that the conflict of interest be addressed and the appeal be reheard. They also asked that the Waldo County Superior Court find that the building permit is void.

According to Price, the potential conflict of interest was not a problem. He said that the 3-0 vote indicated that all the board members present at the appeal agreed that work had been substantially commenced on the project.

“I think it was fair, what happened there,” Price said.

Price also confirmed that work had started on the windmill project.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Stranded in Suburbia

NY Times
May 19, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist


I have seen the future, and it works.

O.K., I know that these days you’re supposed to see the future in China or India, not in the heart of “old Europe.”

But we’re living in a world in which oil prices keep setting records, in which the idea that global oil production will soon peak is rapidly moving from fringe belief to mainstream assumption. And Europeans who have achieved a high standard of living in spite of very high energy prices — gas in Germany costs more than $8 a gallon — have a lot to teach us about how to deal with that world.

If Europe’s example is any guide, here are the two secrets of coping with expensive oil: own fuel-efficient cars, and don’t drive them too much.

Notice that I said that cars should be fuel-efficient — not that people should do without cars altogether. In Germany, as in the United States, the vast majority of families own cars (although German households are less likely than their U.S. counterparts to be multiple-car owners).

But the average German car uses about a quarter less gas per mile than the average American car. By and large, the Germans don’t drive itsy-bitsy toy cars, but they do drive modest-sized passenger vehicles rather than S.U.V.’s and pickup trucks.

In the near future I expect we’ll see Americans moving down the same path. We’ve already done it once: over the course of the 1970s and 1980s, the average mileage of U.S. passenger vehicles rose about 50 percent, as Americans switched to smaller, lighter cars.

This improvement stalled with the rise of S.U.V.’s during the cheap-gas 1990s. But now that gas costs more than ever before, even after adjusting for inflation, we can expect to see mileage rise again.

Admittedly, the next few years will be rough for families who bought big vehicles when gas was cheap, and now find themselves the owners of white elephants with little trade-in value. But raising fuel efficiency is something we can and will do.

Can we also drive less? Yes — but getting there will be a lot harder.

There have been many news stories in recent weeks about Americans who are changing their behavior in response to expensive gasoline — they’re trying to shop locally, they’re canceling vacations that involve a lot of driving, and they’re switching to public transit.

But none of it amounts to much. For example, some major public transit systems are excited about ridership gains of 5 or 10 percent. But fewer than 5 percent of Americans take public transit to work, so this surge of riders takes only a relative handful of drivers off the road.

Any serious reduction in American driving will require more than this — it will mean changing how and where many of us live.

To see what I’m talking about, consider where I am at the moment: in a pleasant, middle-class neighborhood consisting mainly of four- or five-story apartment buildings, with easy access to public transit and plenty of local shopping.

It’s the kind of neighborhood in which people don’t have to drive a lot, but it’s also a kind of neighborhood that barely exists in America, even in big metropolitan areas. Greater Atlanta has roughly the same population as Greater Berlin — but Berlin is a city of trains, buses and bikes, while Atlanta is a city of cars, cars and cars.

And in the face of rising oil prices, which have left many Americans stranded in suburbia — utterly dependent on their cars, yet having a hard time affording gas — it’s starting to look as if Berlin had the better idea.

Changing the geography of American metropolitan areas will be hard. For one thing, houses last a lot longer than cars. Long after today’s S.U.V.’s have become antique collectors’ items, millions of people will still be living in subdivisions built when gas was $1.50 or less a gallon.

Infrastructure is another problem. Public transit, in particular, faces a chicken-and-egg problem: it’s hard to justify transit systems unless there’s sufficient population density, yet it’s hard to persuade people to live in denser neighborhoods unless they come with the advantage of transit access.

And there are, as always in America, the issues of race and class. Despite the gentrification that has taken place in some inner cities, and the plunge in national crime rates to levels not seen in decades, it will be hard to shake the longstanding American association of higher-density living with poverty and personal danger.

Still, if we’re heading for a prolonged era of scarce, expensive oil, Americans will face increasingly strong incentives to start living like Europeans — maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives.

Ocean energy institute takes different tack

Maine News

By Amy Lea
(Created: Sunday, May 18, 2008 3:23 AM EDT)

The Ocean Energy Institute that had been expected a year ago to move into the Rockland Harbor Park LLC to study alternative energy sources from the ocean is taking a different and greatly expanded course.

The expansion requires a larger location. The project’s organizers are looking at locations such as Bath Iron Works and the decommissioned Brunswick Naval Air Station. In the end, the plan is to erect a series of wind turbines offshore and use that energy to power Maine homes and businesses.

Rockland Harbor Park LLC purchased the former MBNA waterfront complex in Rockland in March 2007. At that time, one of the uses cited was an ocean energy research institute. Retail and offices were also planned for the Water Street complex.

Harbor Park LLC consists of Mathew and Ellen Simmons, who are seasonal residents of Rockport; Marianne and Stuart Smith of Camden; Jay Kislak who is a seasonal resident of Rockport; and Tom and Linda Meyer, who are seasonal residents of Lincolnville.

Matthew Simmons is the founder and operator of the energy firm Simmons & Company International. The company provides investment banking for energy products.

In an initial e-mail last March Simmons stated, “I am very intent on pressing ahead on creating what I am calling an Ocean Energy Institute. Initially it will not take much of the building space. Ideally over time, this center will be the “silicon valley” headquarters for Ocean Energy expertise and spun many growing business activities for what might become the only real way to begin weaning ourselves from what will soon become clear peaking of global oil and gas.”

The growth of that plan has resulted in the project looking for larger space.

The Rockland Harbor Park LLC complex, however, is expected to be occupied by a Boston financial company that plans to employ at least 300 people. Details are still being worked out before the identity of the company is announced. The complex will also be occupied by Amalfi’s restaurant and a new restaurant in the boathouse at the end of the pier.

According to George Hart, the chief technical officer of the Ocean Energy Institute, initially they were thinking of a much smaller energy project.

“After doing some research of the real situation in Maine, it became clear we needed a solution quickly to what will be a huge problem for the state in the relatively near future,” he said.

“The point is not only to address he Maine energy problem but to try to create thousands of jobs (up to 10,000 or more) in what will be a new Maine renewable industry,” Hart said.

This shift will also require hundreds of installation and maintenance jobs on the water.

“We are trying to put together a business plan for the state, looking to all that would be involved, such as job creation, connecting to the grid and the environmental aspects of all this,” he said.

He said the idea for wind turbine energy on the gulf of Maine is so attractive is because the wind on the coast is twice as strong in the winter than in the summer months.

“You could extract 8 times the electrical power in the fall and winter months,” he said.

Hart said each farm would be about six miles square and can have 100 to 200 towers on the out of sight of land. The diameter of the blades would be about 400-feet across. The towers would also be placed with input from fishermen, so that they would be located in places that would be least likely to have an impact on their livelihood.

“A lot of the rest of the country is paying attention to what is going on here because of the seriousness of the need Maine is facing. This is a powerful resource. Maine will probably lead the rest of the country in using this sustainable energy resource.”

Hart said the primary focus in the last few months has been intense collaboration with politicians, business owners and educational institutions.

He lot of activity has been centered in the University of Maine campus.

The company is working with the University of Maine, Maine Maritime Academy and the Passamaquoddy Indians in the narrows and the Western Passage to determine whether the large-scale offshore wind farms are practical.

Hart and University of Maine Professor of Civil/ Structural Engineering Habib Dagher also spent time at the European Wind Energy Conference last month and are working closely with offshore wind turbine developers with companies named Blue H and SWAY. Both companies have floating wind turbines in development.

Dagher said the conference discussed many of the changes Europe is making in regards to energy and he learned that Europe is moving in the direction of offshore wind. He said wind will be the source of about 20 percent of electrical energy in Europe by 2020.

“Plans are taking shape very strongly all over the world and Maine can be positioned to do the same thing,” Dagher said. “I am very excited to be involved and to make this a reality.”

Dagher is in charge of the composites lab at the Orono campus and is working with Hart to develop lightweight corrosion resistant structural composites for the wind turbines. Dagher has also been in contact with companies in the state who could potentially manufacture the composites.

Dagher said providing power through wind could be a positive shift for the state, turning a problem of high gas prices and electricity into an opportunity. He said if the Maine manufactured and produced the wind turbines, there could be the potential for as many as 25,000 to 50,000 jobs in state.

“We are looking at an investment of $17 billion dollars,” he said. “The opportunities are very exciting for the state. We have a wonderful resource off the coast of Maine. As many countries might have oil, we have wind and until now, we have not taken advantage of this resource.”

Hart is also collaborating with the Canadian government, Cianbro Chief Executive Officer Peter Vigue, Hallowell International owner Ed Paslawski, former Maine Gov. Angus King, Maine Director of the Office of Energy Independence and Security John Kerry, the Maine Marine Research Coalition, and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

He has also been working with University of Maine Professor of Mechanical Engineering Michael Peterson.

Hart said Maine is poised to lead the country in the use of wind power as a sustainable energy resource.

“A lot of the rest of the country is paying attention to what is going on in Maine because of the seriousness of the need Maine is facing. This is a powerful resource,” Hart said.

Hart said the company ran into some obstacles about a year ago while looking at tidal currents and extracting ocean wave energy. When they took a closer look at the plans, he said a couple of things jumped out.

One was that Maine faces an energy crisis over the next 12 years since 80 percent of people in the state heat with oil.

He said even with somewhat optimistic views of the price of oil, he estimates that the price will go over $10 per gallon over the next 12 years.

“If you are using about 1,000 gallons a winter, that would be $10,000 a year just for heat,” he said. “These were numbers I put together in mid-February and presented to former governor Angus King.”

King gave a lecture at Bowdoin College on April 15, called the Saudi Arabia of Wind, Confronting Maine’s Energy Catastrophe.

According to Hart, the average family spent 4 percent of its income on energy in 1998. Now, he said, Maine families are spending about 20 percent of their budget on energy and in 12 years the average family will be spending 50 percent on energy and 20 percent on healthcare, leaving only 30 percent for everything else.

He said in order to create the amount of energy needed the Ocean Energy Institute decided to put the focus on what Maine has an abundance of, which is deep water offshore wind.

Hart said analysis done by National Renewable Energy Labs has indicated potentially 200 gigawatts of offshore energy in the gulf of Maine. This is the equivalent of 200 coal power plants, he said.

Hart said, it is clear that many people on land do not like these wind farms anywhere near them, so the wind turbines used to generate power would be placed about six miles offshore and would not be visible from land. Hart said the challenge would be to make sure to place them in a location that would not interfere with fishing and boating.

In order to place the wind turbines, the company would use technology developed in deep water oil drilling and place the turbines on platforms.

With help from a Company in Bangor called Hallowell International owned by Ed Paslawski, they have developed a cold climate heat pump, which is designed to take heat from the air in winter and use it for home heating. Through heat pump technology and, heat could also be sucked out of the earth.

Hart said a glorified air conditioner would be used to move heat from the outside-in, instead of from inside-out.

He said the models that have already been developed, such as the Acadia, plug into electrical outlets. The Acadia was developed by Hallowell International in Bangor.

The electric power from the offshore could be put into electric baseboard heating, producing a certain amount of heat per kilowatt hour. With the heat pump, residents would get four times amount of heat.

He said the only problem at this point is that the cost of this heat pump is about $10,000. He said, however, with rising oil prices, the pump would pay for itself in about 3 to 4 years and offshore wind electric prices would be stable and wouldn’t keep rising the way oil will.

He said this technology is currently being used in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

“The idea here in broad terms is to get something of a predictable fixed energy price so Maine doesn’t get killed by energy prices going up,” Hart said.

The benefits of wind turbine energy is that it will leave no carbon footprint, it would create thousands of jobs and keep money in the state of Maine, Hart said.

“For each dollar gas and oil that jumps, the state looses $1.2 billion that Maine will never see again, that goes over to the middle east, Hart said. “We want to try to do this in a way that people living in Maine don’t feel their experience in Maine is ruined by this.”

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Deal in the wind for TransCanada

Morning Sentinel

Staff Writer


FARMINGTON -- Franklin County residents can hear tonight about a proposed tax break for TransCanada's wind farm project.

The company's $220 million effort near the Canadian border will be in the spotlight at 6 p.m. upstairs in the Franklin County Courthouse on Main Street.

The details of the tax-increment financing program will be unveiled by the county's consultant, Gregory Mitchell of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group. The public is invited to comment and suggestions could be incorporated into the draft proposal, said Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay.

A formal public hearing is set for May 29.

The TIF proposal presented Thursday will include the percentage of the wind farm's annual $1.1 million property taxes that would be returned to the company for reinvestment into the project for the next 20 years.

The county would also allowed to keep part of the property taxes to use for economic development projects in Franklin County's unorganized territory.

The draft agreement will also lay out the proposed economic development projects for the unorganized territory that the county can undertake with TIF revenues.

Commissioner Gary T. McGrane of Jay on Tuesday declined to specify the details of the deal before the meeting because some issues are still being worked out.

"We need to capture those tax resources and we are taking into consideration the taxpayers, Franklin County and TransCanada," he said. "We want to give everyone a piece of the package."

Some town officials in earlier meetings questioned a TIF's benefit to towns outside the unorganized territory. Without the tax deal, the project would reduce county taxes. With a TIF, taxes remain about the same.

The New Cold War

NY Times
May 14, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist


The next American president will inherit many foreign policy challenges, but surely one of the biggest will be the cold war. Yes, the next president is going to be a cold-war president — but this cold war is with Iran.

That is the real umbrella story in the Middle East today — the struggle for influence across the region, with America and its Sunni Arab allies (and Israel) versus Iran, Syria and their non-state allies, Hamas and Hezbollah. As the May 11 editorial in the Iranian daily Kayhan put it, “In the power struggle in the Middle East, there are only two sides: Iran and the U.S.”

For now, Team America is losing on just about every front. How come? The short answer is that Iran is smart and ruthless, America is dumb and weak, and the Sunni Arab world is feckless and divided. Any other questions?

The outrage of the week is the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah attempt to take over Lebanon. Hezbollah thugs pushed into Sunni neighborhoods in West Beirut, focusing particular attention on crushing progressive news outlets like Future TV, so Hezbollah’s propaganda machine could dominate the airwaves. The Shiite militia Hezbollah emerged supposedly to protect Lebanon from Israel. Having done that, it has now turned around and sold Lebanon to Syria and Iran.

All of this is part of what Ehud Yaari, one of Israel’s best Middle East watchers, calls “Pax Iranica.” In his April 28 column in The Jerusalem Report, Mr. Yaari pointed out the web of influence that Iran has built around the Middle East — from the sway it has over Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, to its ability to manipulate virtually all the Shiite militias in Iraq, to its building up of Hezbollah into a force — with 40,000 rockets — that can control Lebanon and threaten Israel should it think of striking Tehran, to its ability to strengthen Hamas in Gaza and block any U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“Simply put,” noted Mr. Yaari, “Tehran has created a situation in which anyone who wants to attack its atomic facilities will have to take into account that this will lead to bitter fighting” on the Lebanese, Palestinian, Iraqi and Persian Gulf fronts. That is a sophisticated strategy of deterrence.

The Bush team, by contrast, in eight years has managed to put America in the unique position in the Middle East where it is “not liked, not feared and not respected,” writes Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast negotiator under both Republican and Democratic administrations, in his provocative new book on the peace process, titled “The Much Too Promised Land.”

“We stumbled for eight years under Bill Clinton over how to make peace in the Middle East, and then we stumbled for eight years under George Bush over how to make war there,” said Mr. Miller, and the result is “an America that is trapped in a region which it cannot fix and it cannot abandon.”

Look at the last few months, he said: President Bush went to the Middle East in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went in February, Vice President Dick Cheney went in March, the secretary of state went again in April, and the president is there again this week. After all that, oil prices are as high as ever and peace prospects as low as ever. As Mr. Miller puts it, America right now “cannot defeat, co-opt or contain” any of the key players in the region.

The big debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is over whether or not we should talk to Iran. Obama is in favor; Clinton has been against. Alas, the right question for the next president isn’t whether we talk or don’t talk. It’s whether we have leverage or don’t have leverage.

When you have leverage, talk. When you don’t have leverage, get some — by creating economic, diplomatic or military incentives and pressures that the other side finds too tempting or frightening to ignore. That is where the Bush team has been so incompetent vis-à-vis Iran.

The only weaker party is the Sunni Arab world, which is either so drunk on oil it thinks it can buy its way out of any Iranian challenge or is so divided it can’t make a fist to protect its own interests — or both.

We’re not going to war with Iran, nor should we. But it is sad to see America and its Arab friends so weak they can’t prevent one of the last corners of decency, pluralism and openness in the Arab world from being snuffed out by Iran and Syria. The only thing that gives me succor is the knowledge that anyone who has ever tried to dominate Lebanon alone — Maronites, Palestinians, Syrians, Israelis — has triggered a backlash and failed.

“Lebanon is not a place anyone can control without a consensus, without bringing everybody in,” said the Lebanese columnist Michael Young. “Lebanon has been a graveyard for people with grand projects.” In the Middle East, he added, your enemies always seem to “find a way of joining together and suddenly making things very difficult for you.”

The Post-Bush Climate

NY Times
May 14, 2008


John McCain has been engaged in the fight against global warming for years, even at the expense of breaking with Republican orthodoxy and with President Bush on the issue. But it was still an important moment this week when Mr. McCain, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, decided to raise the profile of climate change in the 2008 campaign. We have clearly entered the post-Bush era of policy and politics on climate change. However this election turns out, the United States will have a president who supports mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases. It is possible to begin to believe in the prospect of serious Congressional action.

Politically, of course, Mr. McCain could also be helping himself. Endorsing an aggressive and potentially expensive effort to reduce carbon emissions will not win him friends on the right wing. But it allows him to make the case (at little cost given his well-known record on the issue) that he is not a Bush clone, even as he embraces the president’s views on taxes, the federal judiciary and the war in Iraq.

Like the two Democratic candidates, Mr. McCain proposes a market-based “cap and trade” system in which power plants and other polluters could meet steadily stricter limits on gases like carbon dioxide — either by reducing emissions on their own or by buying credits from more efficient producers. His plan seeks to stabilize emissions in several years and then cut them by 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Some Democrats and environmentalists pounced quickly on the fact that Mr. McCain’s goals are less ambitious than the 70 percent target contained in a bill sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Warner that is expected to reach the Senate floor next month, or the 80 percent target proposed by Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

His plan differs in other respects, too. He decided at the last minute to delete from his speech a proposed tariff on countries like India and China that defy international agreements on emissions, partly because the tariff could be misconstrued as hostile to free trade, which Mr. McCain supports. The Senate bill contains such a provision. Meanwhile, Mr. McCain is much more enthusiastic, and in our view rightly so, about nuclear energy as a cleaner power source than the Senate sponsors or the two Democratic presidential candidates are.

At this stage, it would be a mistake to make too much of these differences, including the overall targets. With emissions continuing to rise, and the demand for energy expected to grow, any plan that calls for a big downward wrench in emissions will demand huge investments in cleaner ways of producing energy and far more fuel-efficient vehicles. Above all, it will require determined and courageous leadership from a president capable of conveying hard truths and asking a lot of the country.

Assuming that Mr. McCain and the two Democratic candidates mean what they say, on this issue at least, we seem assured of such a president.

World carbon dioxide levels highest for 650,000 years, says US report

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached a record high, according to the latest figures, renewing fears that climate change could begin to slide out of control.

Scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii say that CO2 levels in the atmosphere now stand at 387 parts per million (ppm), up almost 40% since the industrial revolution and the highest for at least the last 650,000 years.

The figures, published by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on its website, also confirm that carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, is accumulating in the atmosphere faster than expected. The annual mean growth rate for 2007 was 2.14ppm - the fourth year in the last six to see an annual rise greater than 2ppm. From 1970 to 2000, the concentration rose by about 1.5ppm each year, but since 2000 the annual rise has leapt to an average 2.1ppm.

Scientists say the shift could indicate that the Earth is losing its natural ability to soak up billions of tonnes of CO2 each year. Climate models assume that about half our future emissions will be reabsorbed by forests and oceans, but the new figures confirm this may be too optimistic. If more of our carbon pollution stays in the atmosphere, it means emissions will have to be cut by more than is currently projected to prevent dangerous levels of global warming.

Martin Parry, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's working group on impacts, said: "Despite all the talk, the situation is getting worse. Levels of greenhouse gases continue to rise in the atmosphere and the rate of that rise is accelerating. We are already seeing the impacts of climate change and the scale of those impacts will also accelerate, until we decide to do something about it."

Perched some 11,000ft up a volcano, the Mauna Loa observatory has been measuring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1958. It is regarded as producing among the most reliable data sets because of its remote location, far from any possible source of the gas that could confuse the sensors.

Over the decades, the Mauna Loa readings, made famous in Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth, show the CO2 level rising and falling each year as foliage across the northern hemisphere blooms in spring and recedes in autumn. But they also show an upward trend as human emissions pour into the atmosphere, and each spring, the total CO2 level creeps above the previous year's high to set a new record.

Robin Oakley, head of Greenpeace's climate change campaign, said: "We're now witnessing a key moment in the climate change story, and it's not good news. The last time the atmosphere was this choked with CO2 humans were yet to evolve as a species. To even consider building new runways and coal-fired power stations at this juncture in history is an unpardonable folly, but Gordon Brown seems determined to stumble forward regardless with his ill-conceived plans in the face of the science and widespread public opposition."

A study last year suggested that the recent surge in atmospheric CO2 levels was down to three processes: growth in the world economy, heavy use of coal in China, and a weakening of natural "sinks", forests, seas and soils that absorb carbon. The scientists said the increase was 35% larger than they expected.

They said about half of the carbon surge was down to the Chinese reliance on coal, which has forced up the carbon intensity of the overall world economy since 2000, reversing a trend of increasing energy efficiency since the 1970s.

UMF, Sugarloaf sending waste oil to Green Bean Biofuel

Kennebec Journal
May 13, 2008

FARMINGTON -- A Vassalboro company that converts used cooking oil to clean-burning fuel for cars, trucks and home heating systems is looking for your grease.
Two new customers sending waste oil to Green Bean Biofuel are the University of Maine at Farmington's Dining Services and Sugarloaf/USA in Carrabassett Valley.

The biofuel is manufactured by Randy Bean, owner of Bean's Commercial Grease Inc., a new facility on Riverside Drive in Vassalboro. Customers for the finished fuel product are chiefly businesses operating trucks that are designed to be powered by diesel.

According to Bean, 1.8 million gallons of waste vegetable oil is generated annually in Maine by restaurants and food services. His plant is equipped to produce 935,000 gallons of biofuel a year and he needs one million gallons to meet that demand.

Bean's trucks pick up the waste oil from containers two or three times a week and leave a clean one in return at no cost.

At UMF, Chris Kenney, the director of food services, is leading the way among ARAMARK services nationwide in recycling waste cooking oil for biofuel production.

"We are proud to be able to say that we are recycling 100 percent of our waste cooking oil for biofuel," Kinney said, "And being 'green' is contagious. I am hearing from the directors of other food service programs who are interested in enhancing their own recycling efforts with similar programs."

This new sustainable initiative is expected to recycle more than 1,600 gallons of waste cooking oil and grease generated in the UMF kitchen annually. In 2007, the Maine Resource Recovery Association named UMF Dining Services "Composter of the Year" for composting 35 tons of food waste. That same year, the UMF campus, which is committed to environmental stewardship and to graduating responsible global citizens, recycled 7.6 tons of cardboard; 1,870 cubic feet of plastic; 5,985 cubic feet of metal; and 920 cubic feet of glass, according to a press release.

Green Bean is the only company in the state producing biofuel for commercial sale from waste oil, Bean said.

Bean's customers include construction contractors, school districts and nearly 50 individual customers who fill up their cars and tractor trailers at the plant using a key card system.

Last week, Bean was charging $4.16 a gallon for diesel at the pump compared to $4.39 at area gas stations. He also manufactures and delivers a "bioheat" product that blends #2 home heating oil with biofuel and saves people 18 to 22 cents per gallon.

Made from renewable sources, biofuel has lower emissions than petroleum, is less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as fast as sugar, according to the National Biodiesel Board.

At the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, inspector William Butler gives Bean high marks for his operation and his product.

"Randy has perfected the production process," he said. "The challenge was going through all the different permit applications that are required for anyone manufacturing and selling biofuel and he did it all.

"The proof is in his customer base. He has entire construction fleets running on this fuel and they can't afford to have break-downs," Butler said.

To contact Green Bean Biofuel, call (866) 873- 9199.

Betty Jespersen -- 779- 6991

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Monks aims to change ExxonMobil

Portland Press Herald

Edward Murphy

May 6, 2008

Most investors would be perfectly happy with the value of their stock nearly tripling over the past five years.

But Robert A.G. Monks of Cape Elizabeth and the Rockefeller family are not that pleased with ExxonMobil, despite the huge profits and healthy stock gains the company has been posting.

Monks and the Rockefellers are teaming up to try to force the oil conglomerate to change with the times, lest it be left behind.

Their proposals, to be voted on at ExxonMobil's annual meeting on May 28 in Dallas, are led by Monks' move to separate the jobs of chief executive officer and chairman of the board. Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil's chairman and CEO, would have to give up leadership of the board, which would pass to an outside director under Monks' plan.

Monks said company boards are supposed to supervise and evaluate the top executives. That can't work when the very top executive also runs the board, he said.

"How does the same person supervise themselves?" he asked. "It just doesn't make any sense at all."

Monks, a longtime shareholder activist, said his proposal has been steadily gaining support, with the backing of those owning 40 percent of the shares at the last annual meeting. But, he said, that level of support and news reports about Monks teaming up with the Rockefellers has gotten management's attention, and he expects the executives to rally their supporters to try to beat back the proposal at the annual meeting.

The contest, he suggested in language a little too strong for a family newspaper, has now become a test of manhood for ExxonMobil's leaders.

"It's a little naive to think they'll ignore it forever, because if we get to 50 percent, they've got a problem," Monks said.

Another problem ExxonMobil may face is the restive Rockefellers, descendants of John D. Rockefeller. That Rockefeller, of course, was the country's first oil mogul and founded Standard Oil, a forerunner of ExxonMobil.

Monks and the Rockefellers want the company to look beyond today's $120-a-barrel oil and think about what happens when the oil starts running out, or the leaders of the countries where the oil comes from want to call the shots on their chief, and valuable, natural resource.

ExxonMobil, Monks said, "no longer controls their source of supply," he said. "If Exxon(Mobil) doesn't do anything, 20 years from now they're just going to be a distributor."

From his experience running a heating oil company in the Portland area, Monks said, he knows "being a distributor isn't as good a business" as being the company that also pumps and refines the oil.

Team Monks/Rockefeller is also pushing ExxonMobil to become greener, with proposals requiring the company to give consumers more information on emissions and a requirement calling for a report on the likely consequences of climate change – and what might be the result if the company took the lead on developing sustainable energy sources.

Monks and his family own about 100,000 shares of ExxonMobil, out of about 5.4 billion shares outstanding. The Rockefellers, individually, also own a tiny fraction of shares outstanding, although foundations and charities have been given a substantial amount of stock by the family, he noted. Still, the proposals would require significant backing by mutual funds and other large shareholders, such as pension funds, to gain a majority.

The company is resisting all the proposals and recommending that shareholders vote against them. Monks said he's not surprised.

"They seem to be allergic to taking suggestions from anyone else," he said, and ExxonMobile is the type of company where only longtime employees rise to the top.

"Exxon is a really, really insular company," Monks said. "They haven't really got anybody there saying, 'Hey everybody, let's have some common sense.'"

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

How should we promote energy efficiency?

Portland Press Herald

A new report shows how vital it could be to the future of Maine's economy.


May 4, 2008

The Muskie School at USM and the Margaret Chase Smith Center at the University of Maine recently released a joint report on the gains Maine could enjoy from greater energy efficiency -- "Energy Efficiency, Business Competitiveness and Untapped Economic Potential in Maine," prepared for the Governor's Energy Summit, April 3, 2008.

The report's most striking finding is not that we can gain from increasing energy efficiency (that applies to everyone, after all), but rather that ours is such an energy-intensive economy. Maine ranks 24th among the 50 states plus Washington, D.C., in terms of energy used per dollar of Gross State Product and 20th in terms of energy used per resident.

Upon reflection, the reasons are obvious. Our colder-than-average climate means that it takes more energy to heat and light our buildings. Our relatively sparse population, virtual absence of public transportation and sprawling land use pattern mean that we have to drive for everything we do -- to get to work, to school, to shop, to visit, to recreate. Finally, the continued importance of paper manufacturing in our industrial sector means that it takes more power to run our machinery.

The results of these fundamental facts about our economy are equally obvious. Relative energy costs represent, by far, our most significant economic cost disadvantage, far outpacing differences in the costs of labor, office or industrial space and taxes. Our relative costs for labor, space and taxes are at or slightly above national averages, but our relative energy costs are 90 percent above the national average.

Clearly, given these differentials, the benefits of increasing energy efficiency are enormous. Citing a variety of studies from other states, the Muskie/Margaret Chase Smith study suggests that Maine's commercial and industrial sectors could, by adopting known but not cutting edge energy efficiencies, reduce their petroleum and electricity use by between 20 and 25 percent. Having invested in these efficiencies, Maine's businesses could increase their relative competitive position and, according to the report, increase total state employment by more than 1,500 jobs, total state production by nearly $170 million and total state income by nearly $100 million by 2020.

So why are we waiting? Why aren't boilers being replaced and buildings insulated and burners retrofitted and newer electric motors being installed?

The report cites several reasons. We have a mishmash of building standards. It's not clear legally what can and can't be done. We have a mishmash of information. Many possible efficiencies are touted, but which are reliable? There is no standard source of readily accessible energy-efficiency information for businesses considering these investments. We have a mishmash of motivations. Often those who must make the energy-efficiency investment (a landlord, for example) don't gain the benefits (a tenant who pays the utility bill, for example), so the traditional economic arrangements of the system discourage investment.

And finally -- and most importantly -- we have tremendous uncertainty about pricing. Businesses who sank millions into wood-fired and hydro-powered electricity plants in the 1970s and '80s only to see themselves undercut by steeply falling oil prices are certain to be hesitant before thinking seriously about today's "alternative" energy ideas. In those days, we had only OPEC to worry about. Today, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Nigeria have joined the Middle Eastern emirates as petro-states whose production motivations can never be predicted with any certainty.

In addition, today we can no longer separate energy policy from monetary policy. The Federal Reserve's current efforts to forestall a U.S. recession are driving energy prices far higher than can be explained by purely production demands. What will happen to energy prices if the Fed starts raising interest rates?

It is this uncertainty about the course of future energy prices more than anything else that holds back investment in efficiency. Thus, if the state really wants to encourage such investment, it should address this uncertainty directly. Borrow a page from the financial engineers and say to the business considering an energy investment: "Instead of giving you a subsidized loan or a tax credit to help pay for your investment today, I'll indemnify you for the difference between the future energy costs you're projecting today (that show a positive payback) and those that actually occur." If energy prices remain high, the state pays nothing. If prices spike sometime during the payback period, the state offsets the difference. But in either case, the investment gets made today, Maine's energy use drops and its economy gains.

Seems like a risk worth taking.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Maine PUC chief stepping down May 16

Portland Press Herald

Kurt Adams resigns to work for a national wind development company.

May 2, 2008

AUGUSTA — Chairman Kurt Adams of the Maine Public Utilities Commission is stepping down to work for a national wind development company.

Adams will leave the state's utility regulatory panel on May 16. He's to become senior vice president for transmission development at First Wind, formerly UPC Wind.

Gov. John Baldacci is accepting his resignation and naming Commissioner Sharon Reishus to take over as chairman. Reishus has served on the commission since 2003.

Adams joined the PUC in 2005 after serving two years as Baldacci's legal counsel. Previously, he specialized in energy affairs in private law practice.

"Kurt has led the PUC during a time when it has faced enormous challenges," Baldacci said in a statement Thursday. "He has accomplished a tremendous amount and protected the public interest. Kurt has been an asset for the people of Maine."

The governor's office said a search for a new commissioner for the three-member panel will begin immediately. An appointee would complete the remainder of Adams' term, which expires at the end of March 2011.

"Energy costs are one of the biggest problems facing businesses and families in Maine," Baldacci said. "As I consider this appointment, I will be looking for someone who brings a keen understanding of business in Maine and who has the ability to analyze the complex financial transactions that come before the commission. I also need someone who will continue Kurt's campaign to protect Maine's energy sovereignty and to lower the cost of electricity."

Commissioners are appointed by the governor to staggered six-year terms.

"I'm sorry to see Kurt leave the PUC, but I know without reservation that Sharon will be a strong chairman. She is a proven, dedicated public servant with broad experience and expertise," Baldacci said.

"I know that she will provide the leadership necessary to protect Mainers from unreasonable utility rates. She is a person of unquestionable personal and professional integrity, and I'm confident she will do a great job."

Reishus worked on the PUC staff for most of a decade before joining a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass. Previously, Reishus was a planner for Central Maine Power Co.

In 1987 and 1988, Reishus was a senior duty officer with the National Security Council in Washington, where she led a team of intelligence analysts and briefed key officials, including the president, on foreign policy issues, according to her resume.

Reishus was an intelligence officer for the Central Intelligence Agency from 1984-87.

A graduate of Stanford University, she has a master's degree in strategic planning from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

UPC Wind, Based in Newton, Mass., announced Thursday it is changing its name to First Wind and said the name change will not affect the company's organizational structure or day-to-day operations.

As Gas Costs Soar, Buyers Flock to Small Cars

NY Times

May 2, 2008


DETROIT — Soaring gas prices have turned the steady migration by Americans to smaller cars into a stampede.

In what industry analysts are calling a first, about one in five vehicles sold in the United States was a compact or subcompact car during April, based on monthly sales data released Thursday. Almost a decade ago, when sport utility vehicles were at their peak of popularity, only one in every eight vehicles sold was a small car.

The switch to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles has been building in recent years, but has accelerated recently with the advent of $3.50-a-gallon gas. At the same time, sales of pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles have dropped sharply.

In another first, fuel-sipping four-cylinder engines surpassed six-cylinder models in popularity in April.

“It’s easily the most dramatic segment shift I have witnessed in the market in my 31 years here,” said George Pipas, chief sales analyst for the Ford Motor Company.

The trend toward smaller and lighter vehicles with better mileage is a blow to Detroit automakers, which offer fewer such models than Asian carmakers like Toyota and Honda. Moreover, the decline of S.U.V.’s and pickups has curtailed the biggest source of profits for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

Once considered an unattractive and cheap alternative to large cars and S.U.V.’s, compacts have become the new star of the showroom at a time when overall industry sales are falling.

Sales of Toyota’s subcompact Yaris increased 46 percent, and Honda’s tiny Fit had a record month. Ford’s compact Focus model jumped 32 percent in April from a year earlier. All those models are rated at more than 30 miles per gallon for highway driving.

Dave Strom of South Boston, Va., recently bought a tiny Smart ForTwo Passion Coupe, made by Daimler, the German automaker.

Mr. Strom also owns a pickup truck, which he uses mainly to haul his boat. When he runs errands, he drives his Smart, which he says is getting 45 miles a gallon.

“I had to smile the other day when I filled my tank for $18 and the guy next to me had a Ford Explorer and the pump was clicking past $80,” said Mr. Strom, a 66-year-old retired manager of a Chevrolet dealership.

Previous spikes in sales of smaller cars were often a result of consumers trading down during tough economic conditions or gas-price increases. When the economy improved or fuel prices dropped again — as they did after the oil-price shocks in the 1970s eased — buyers invariably went back to bigger vehicles.

But with oil prices expected to remain high for years, auto industry executives are seeing a turning point.

“The era of the truck-based large S.U.V.’s is over,” said Michael Jackson, chief executive of AutoNation, the nation’s largest auto retailer.

Sales of traditional S.U.V.’s are down more than 25 percent this year. In April, for example, sales of G.M.’s Chevrolet Tahoe fell 35 percent.

Full-size pickup sales have fallen more than 15 percent this year, with Ford’s industry-leading F-Series pickup dropping 27 percent in April alone. Sales of pickups, though, are expected to strengthen with the economy, because of their use as commercial vehicles.

The rise in sales of more fuel-efficient vehicles occurred during one of the industry’s worst months in more than a decade. For the month, G.M. sales dropped 23 percent and Ford slid 19 percent, while Toyota fell by 5 percent. The figures were adjusted for the fact that this April had two more selling days than a year ago.

Another bright spot in the numbers were sales of so-called small crossovers — which look like little S.U.V.’s and are based on car underpinnings.

Like small cars, they also accounted for about 20 percent of the total industry sales for the month, according to the research firm J. D. Power & Associates.

The analysis by J. D. Power also showed that 42 percent of all vehicles sold in April were equipped with four-cylinder engines, compared with 38 percent for six-cylinder engines.

How the downsizing of America’s vehicle fleet will affect fuel consumption is still largely unknown. When gas prices rise, as they are now, many drivers simply drive less to save money.

But there are some indications that the trend toward smaller vehicles will reduce the nation’s fuel use. In California, motorists bought 4 percent less gasoline in January than they did the year before, a drop of more than 58 million gallons, according to the Oil Price Information Service.

“That is an incredible year-over-year drop,” said Tom Kloza, the organization’s chief oil analyst. “Some of it clearly has to do with changes in the vehicle fleet.”

Small cars have traditionally been favorites of young, first-time buyers attracted by their low prices. But sales have been creeping up since 2005, particularly among older baby-boomers whose children have grown.

Crossover vehicles have also drawn in empty-nesters who have less need for a large car, S.U.V. or minivan.

“The first of the baby boomers turned 62 this year, and they’ve started downsizing,” Mr. Pipas of Ford said.

The latest crop of small cars and crossovers also feature the creature comforts and safety features once found only in more expensive models.

Factor in the economic benefits of fuel-efficient engines, and small cars have not only become practical, but trendy as well.

“This shift appears to be a permanent situation,” said Jesse Toprak, chief industry analyst for the auto information Web site “These new products have become more fashionable, just like small, fuel-efficient cars are in Europe.”

The low prices on small cars are also luring consumers who are tightening their belts in an economic downturn.

“We wanted to have good fuel economy, but we were equally concerned about the price of the car,” said John Shelby of Phoenix, who recently purchased a Honda Fit for $15,600.

Smaller vehicles, though, mean smaller profit margins for automakers. The drop in pickup sales, because of the slowdown in the housing and construction industries, has been particularly painful for Detroit’s Big Three.

“It’s just a difficult truck market for everybody, ourselves included,” said Mark LaNeve, G.M.’s head of North American sales. “By and large, people are just staying out of that market.”

Automakers ignore the move to smaller vehicles at their own peril. G.M., for example, is playing catch-up by introducing a dozen new cars and crossovers in the next few model years.

With federal fuel-economy regulations increasing to 31.6 miles per gallon by 2015, car companies have another incentive to speed development of smaller vehicles.

“If you look at where the automakers are putting their resources into now, just about everything is going into small cars,” said Tom Libby, senior market analyst for J. D. Power.

New devices help measure potential for wind projects

Bangor Daily News

By Anne Ravana
Thursday, May 01, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine and a state energy efficiency program have acquired two devices used to measure wind speed and determine whether an area is a good location for a wind turbine.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission’s Efficiency Maine Program and UM representatives announced at a news conference Wednesday that they will begin accepting applications from schools, towns, nonprofits and businesses that want to borrow the anemometers to assess the potential for small-scale wind projects designed to generate greater than 500 kilowatts of electricity.

The program was created to aid in the development of small wind projects rather than big projects such as the wind installation at Mars Hill. Residential applicants are not eligible.

"Wind generators are a big investment and we’ve received requests from citizens about how to get more wind data," said Public Utilities Commissioner Sharon Reishus. "We know that Maine has tremendous wind resources — the most in New England — that have not yet been captured."

The anemometers were bought with a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

UM engineering students have set up one of the anemometers in a field on the Orono campus for demonstration purposes. The anemometer is a slim metal tower that stands 98.4 feet high and measures wind speed and direction.

When an anemometer is loaned out, engineering students will collect data and write reports to provide clients with information regarding the availability of wind at the site. That information will also be made public via the Efficiency Maine Web site.

The anemometer equipment remains at a site for up to 12 months. The landowners are responsible for the equipment while it is installed at their site as well as for permitting and insurance requests.

UM will conduct preliminary assessments of applicants using available wind resource data from the area to determine which applicants’ sites are suitable to move on in the application process.

Applicants must show that they have the intention and the means to establish a working wind turbine at the location if the anemometer shows the site has sufficient wind capacity.

For more information, visit

Saco considers rules for home windmills

Portland Press Herald

The city may become the first in the state to set standards for placement of small turbines.

Reader Comments
By SETH HARKNESS, Staff Writer

April 28, 2008

The first city in Maine to erect a municipal windmill is considering what may be the first zoning ordinance in the state regarding residential wind turbines.

The Saco City Council is considering a set of rules to establish standards for placement of small windmills of the sort that could power a home.

With the city taking a leading role in wind power by putting up two turbines of its own in the last couple years, Saco City Councilor Eric Cote said many residents are inquiring about erecting their own windmills. The city has issued only two residential permits for these structures, but Cote said the city expects applications to rise.

Lynn-Marie Plouffe, who runs the 322-acre Dupuis Farm off Route 112, acquired the first two permits for private windmills in Saco. A contractor raised the first of these structures at the farm on Friday, a 50-foot windmill she hopes will help cut the electric bill by generating up to 800 kilowatt-hours per month.

Plouffe said the windmill cost $18,000, which potentially could be paid back with energy savings in 12 to 15 years. Production of 1,000 kwh is equivalent to about $150 of electricity. If the price of electricity goes up, as Plouffe expects it will, the payback period could be shortened.

"I can't understand why more people wouldn't do it," she said.

When Saco put up a 35-foot windmill beside the municipal sewage plant in the fall of 2006, it was the first residential-scale windmill in Maine, according to Cote. Two and a half years later, the councilor said about 80 of these devices are spinning around the state, including one at the Bush estate at Walker's Point in Kennebunkport.

"A lot of people have an interest," he said.

The ordinance under consideration by the Saco City Council would limit residential windmills to those with a capacity of 10 kilowatts or less. As proposed, residents throughout the city would need a half-acre of land for each structure they put up. Windmills could be placed only on single-pole towers no higher than 100 feet.

Saco may be the first community in Maine to pass a wind ordinance, but it isn't the first to consider one.

Last fall, the Cape Elizabeth Town Council considered a proposal that would have made windmills a permitted use under the town's zoning regulations. Earlier this year, the council's ordinance committee voted against allowing windmills on private property, although the committee did recommend installing a single windmill on town-owned land.

Cape Elizabeth Town Council Chairman Mary Ann Lynch said she personally agreed with the committee's decision. "It's an industrial kind of facility. Turbines make noise," she said. "We're a pretty compact town, and it's not a particularly appropriate development for a residential neighborhood."

Maine Municipal Association Director Mike Starn said he is not aware of any community in Maine that has passed a zoning ordinance dealing with windmills. As wind-power technology becomes more attractive to homeowners, Starn said, he expects many towns will begin addressing the issue.

On a national level, small wind turbines have begun to proliferate. Last year, 1,500 wind turbines of 10 kilowatts or less were sold in the United States, a 14 percent increase from the year before, according to Ron Stimmel with the Washington, D.C.-based American Wind Energy Association.

Nevertheless, Stimmel said, zoning restrictions are the second-biggest obstacle to the spread of the technology, after price. He said small turbines are gaining acceptance in local zoning codes, however, and thousands of communities nationally have passed ordinances permitting their placement.

Stimmel said five states -- Wisconsin, New York, Vermont, Michigan and Nevada -- have passed statewide regulations that require municipalities to permit the placement of small turbines unless local communities can show there are safety reasons for not doing so.

The Saco City Council will hold a first reading of the wind ordinance today. A public hearing is proposed for May 5.

Staff Writer Seth Harkness can be contacted at 282-8225 or at:

EMMC saves $1M in energy costs

Bangor Daily News

By Anne Ravana
Thursday, April 17, 2008

BANGOR, Maine - In the 18 months since Eastern Maine Medical Center installed its cogeneration heat and electricity plant, the hospital’s energy costs have dropped by more than $1 million.

The $8.4 million, 3,400-square-foot cogeneration, or cogen, plant, supplies nearly all of the hospital’s electricity, heating and cooling needs and has reduced its dependence on the region’s commercial electricity supplier, Bangor Hydro-Electric Co.

When the plant first came online in August 2006, EMMC officials expected it would take about five years for the plant to pay for itself through cost savings.

"At the rate we’re going, it’s going to be a lot less than that," said Scott Humphrey, plant operations manager at EMMC.

The cogen plant stands on the east side of the hospital complex between State Street and the Penobscot River. It contains a jet engine-size turbine that burns natural gas and draws in air for combustion. A boiler captures the exhaust and uses it to make steam, which is sent to the hospital to heat the buildings and water and to operate its laundry and sterilizing equipment.

The turbine produces up to 4.6 megawatts of electricity at any given time, enough to run 46,000 100-watt bulbs. The plant provides 95 percent of the hospital’s electricity, 90 percent of its heat and 30 percent of its air conditioning.

By generating both heat and electricity with just one fuel source, EMMC is able to maximize the efficiency of the fuel, essentially getting two bangs for the same buck. The turbine has the ability to burn oil as well.

As a result of the cogen plant, EMMC’s fiscal year 2007 heat and power bills totaled $800,000 less than those in fiscal year 2006. EMMC believes the cogen plant saved $1.6 million in anticipated heat and power costs in fiscal year 2007, because prices that year would have continued to rise above the 2006 figures.

The cost savings are enhanced by EMMC’s "locking in" natural gas prices at a two-year low and committing to energy-reducing operating strategies, the hospital said.

The goal of the plant is to reduce energy costs and pass savings on to patients, Humphrey said.

Jeff Mylen, director of EMMC’s construction services, was asked by Gov. John Baldacci’s office to make a presentation on the cogen project in a panel at the Governor’s Energy Efficiency Summit earlier this month. Mylen participated in a panel discussion of opportunities to use combined heat and power technologies for energy efficiency.

For information about the plant, visit and look for the EMMC cogen button at the bottom of the left navigation bar.


Businesses in Bay Area May Pay Fee for Emissions

NY Times

April 17, 2008


SAN FRANCISCO — Air quality regulators in the San Francisco Bay Area appear set to begin charging hundreds of businesses in the region for their emissions of heat-trapping gases.

It is believed to be the first time in the country that any government body would charge industries directly for emissions that contribute to climate change. The regional agency that is considering the fee, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, would be effectively leapfrogging the continuing debate in Sacramento and Washington over how to control emissions.

The businesses affected by the fee — 4.4 cents per ton of carbon dioxide emitted — range from large petroleum refineries and cement plants to small gasoline stations and industrial bakeries.

The air quality management agency has long had independent authority under state law to regulate businesses that emit conventional pollutants like fine particulates. In establishing a new fee, it would be stretching its mandate to include carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping gases.

A representative of local oil refineries said the agency’s authority to do this was “questionable” but he would not predict whether there would be a court challenge. If the fee is adopted, as expected, at a May 21 hearing, it would take effect on July 1.

At a hearing here Wednesday, regulators indicated that the fee could raise $1.1 million annually. Refineries, power plants and cement plants would pay nearly 90 percent of total fees. The largest gas stations might be charged $1 a year; the Safeway bakery that supplies bread to all stores in the Bay Area would pay $85 a year.

The biggest emitter of the gases, the Shell oil refinery in Martinez, would have to pay $195,355, based on 2005 emissions of 4.4 million metric tons.

Regulators said the fee was designed to recoup costs associated with developing carbon dioxide controls, like compiling an inventory of regional emissions. The 850 facilities that would be affected by the new fee already pay a variety of other fees to obtain operating permits.

At Wednesday’s hearing Linda Weiner, representing the Bay Area Clean Air Task Force, embraced the fee, saying, “We believe it sets a precedent as the first time that businesses and government agencies would face financial consequences for contributing to global warming.”

But Dennis Bolt, of the Western States Petroleum Association, said that the agency was overstepping its authority and that the fee was likely to create duplication and confusion with the suite of climate-change measures being developed by the state’s Air Resources Board.

“This just raises more uncertainty at a time of increasing uncertainties,” Mr. Bolt said. “It’s not productive.”

Jack Broadbent, the executive officer for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, said lawyers for the district had been consulting with their counterparts at the Air Resources Board. The board, based in Sacramento, is charged with devising a way to carry out the landmark 2006 law mandating a cutback in emissions of heat-trapping gases.

The board, Mr. Broadbent said, “hasn’t said this is not part of your responsibility. But it hasn’t said it is.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, the district’s chairman, Jerry Hill, said, “My intention is we will go forward with this” fee, but Mr. Hill added that if the state air board imposed overlapping fees as part of its regulatory package, “we will integrate ours with theirs.”

Annually, the nine-county area of the air quality district, which stretches from the wine-producing area of Sonoma County in the north to the expanding suburbs of Solano County in the east and southward through Silicon Valley in Santa Clara County, emits 85.4 million tons of carbon dioxide, according to a report by the air quality district’s staff.

About half of the total comes from motor vehicles, which are not regulated by the air quality district.

An earlier mandate by the Air Resources Board to cut tailpipe emissions of heat-trapping gases was effectively vetoed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in December.


Earth Policy Institute
Plan B Update
For Immediate Release
April 16, 2008

Business-as-Usual Not a Viable Option

Lester R. Brown

A fast-unfolding food shortage is engulfing the entire world, driving food prices to record highs. Over the past half-century grain prices have spiked from time to time because of weather-related events, such as the 1972 Soviet crop failure that led to a doubling of world wheat, rice, and corn prices. The situation today is entirely different, however. The current doubling of grain prices is trend-driven, the cumulative effect of some trends that are accelerating growth in demand and other trends that are slowing the growth in supply.

The world has not experienced anything quite like this before. In the face of rising food prices and spreading hunger, the social order is beginning to break down in some countries. In several provinces in Thailand, for instance, rustlers steal rice by harvesting fields during the night. In response, Thai villagers with distant fields have taken to guarding ripe rice fields at night with loaded shotguns.

In Sudan, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), which is responsible for supplying grain to 2 million people in Darfur refugee camps, is facing a difficult mission to say the least. During the first three months of this year, 56 grain-laden trucks were hijacked. Thus far, only 20 of the trucks have been recovered and some 24 drivers are still unaccounted for. This threat to U.N.-supplied food to the Darfur camps has reduced the flow of food into the region by half, raising the specter of starvation if supply lines cannot be secured.

In Pakistan, where flour prices have doubled, food insecurity is a national concern. Thousands of armed Pakistani troops have been assigned to guard grain elevators and to accompany the trucks that transport grain.

Food riots are now becoming commonplace. In Egypt, the bread lines at bakeries that distribute state-subsidized bread are often the scene of fights. In Morocco, 34 food rioters were jailed. In Yemen, food riots turned deadly, taking at least a dozen lives. In Cameroon, dozens of people have died in food riots and hundreds have been arrested. Other countries with food riots include Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, and Senegal. (See additional examples of food price unrest at

The doubling of world wheat, rice, and corn prices has sharply reduced the availability of food aid, putting the 37 countries that depend on the WFP’s emergency food assistance at risk. In March, the WFP issued an urgent appeal for $500 million of additional funds.

Around the world, a politics of food scarcity is emerging. Most fundamentally, it involves the restriction of grain exports by countries that want to check the rise in their domestic food prices. Russia, the Ukraine, and Argentina are among the governments that are currently restricting wheat exports. Countries restricting rice exports include Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Egypt. These export restrictions simply drive prices higher in the world market.

The chronically tight food supply the world is now facing is driven by the cumulative effect of several well established trends that are affecting both global demand and supply. On the demand side, the trends include the continuing addition of 70 million people per year to the earth’s population, the desire of some 4 billion people to move up the food chain and consume more grain-intensive livestock products, and the recent sharp acceleration in the U.S. use of grain to produce ethanol for cars. Since 2005, this last source of demand has raised the annual growth in world grain consumption from roughly 20 million tons to 50 million tons.

Meanwhile, on the supply side, there is little new land to be brought under the plow unless it comes from clearing tropical rainforests in the Amazon and Congo basins and in Indonesia, or from clearing land in the Brazilian cerrado, a savannah-like region south of the Amazon rainforest. Unfortunately, this has heavy environmental costs: the release of sequestered carbon, the loss of plant and animal species, and increased rainfall runoff and soil erosion. And in scores of countries prime cropland is being lost to both industrial and residential construction and to the paving of land for roads, highways, and parking lots for fast-growing automobile fleets.

New sources of irrigation water are even more scarce than new land to plow. During the last half of the twentieth century, world irrigated area nearly tripled, expanding from 94 million hectares in 1950 to 276 million hectares in 2000. In the years since then there has been little, if any, growth. As a result, irrigated area per person is shrinking by 1 percent a year.

Meanwhile, the backlog of agricultural technology that can be used to raise cropland productivity is dwindling. Between 1950 and 1990 the world’s farmers raised grainland productivity by 2.1 percent a year, but from 1990 until 2007 this growth rate slowed to 1.2 percent a year. And the rising price of oil is boosting the costs of both food production and transport while at the same time making it more profitable to convert grain into fuel for cars.

Beyond this, climate change presents new risks. Crop-withering heat waves, more-destructive storms, and the melting of the Asian mountain glaciers that sustain the dry-season flow of that region’s major rivers, are combining to make harvest expansion more difficult. In the past the negative effect of unusual weather events was always temporary; within a year or two things would return to normal. But with climate in flux, there is no norm to return to.

The collective effect of these trends makes it more and more difficult for farmers to keep pace with the growth in demand. During seven of the last eight years, grain consumption exceeded production. After seven years of drawing down stocks, world grain carryover stocks in 2008 have fallen to 55 days of world consumption, the lowest on record. The result is a new era of tightening food supplies, rising food prices, and political instability. With grain stocks at an all-time low, the world is only one poor harvest away from total chaos in world grain markets.

Business-as-usual is no longer a viable option. Food security will deteriorate further unless leading countries can collectively mobilize to stabilize population, restrict the use of grain to produce automotive fuel, stabilize climate, stabilize water tables and aquifers, protect cropland, and conserve soils. Stabilizing population is not simply a matter of providing reproductive health care and family planning services. It requires a worldwide effort to eradicate poverty. Eliminating water shortages depends on a global attempt to raise water productivity similar to the effort launched a half-century ago to raise land productivity, an initiative that has nearly tripled the world grain yield per hectare. None of these goals can be achieved quickly, but progress toward all is essential to restoring a semblance of food security.

This troubling situation is unlike any the world has faced before. The challenge is not simply to deal with a temporary rise in grain prices, as in the past, but rather to quickly alter those trends whose cumulative effects collectively threaten the food security that is a hallmark of civilization. If food security cannot be restored quickly, social unrest and political instability will spread and the number of failing states will likely increase dramatically, threatening the very stability of civilization itself.

King pushes for offshore wind turbines

Portland Press Herald

The former governor sees them as a solution to huge future energy problems.


April 16, 2008

BRUNSWICK — As governor, Angus King liked to pitch a big idea, like giving laptop computers to all seventh-graders.

Now, as a wind energy entrepreneur, he's floating a whopper.

King said Tuesday that the state should launch a massive research and development effort to create a $15 billion network of offshore wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine over the next 10 years. Only something as ambitious as 1,000 turbines spinning 26 miles off the Maine coast will be able to break the state's reliance on oil and prevent an economic catastrophe, he said.

"The Gulf of Maine is the Saudi Arabia of wind," King said. "There is nothing I've come across that has the large potential this has We need to be thinking big about this."

King called for the wind power equivalent of the "Manhattan Project" during a lecture at Bowdoin College Tuesday evening, referring to the effort that produced the atomic bomb. He said such a "wind ranch" could provide all of Maine's electricity, as well as heat for its homes and power for its cars.

King, who is now working on two conventional wind farm proposals in western Maine, did not say how such a massive project would be paid for, except that it will take government and private funding.

But he insisted that the price won't look so daunting in 10 to 12 years as oil and gas prices triple. Oil could realistically cost $300 a barrel in 2020, he said.

"Filling up your (car's gas) tank will be $200. To fill up the (heating oil) tank in your basement with oil -- $2,000." Maine, with its cold winters, will be uninhabitable, he said.

King's idea is provocative, said Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine and a leading wind energy advocate. "It's a bigger concept than anybody's talking about."

Land-based wind projects are far more financially sound, he said. The technological challenges of building large floating platforms, among other things, means offshore wind power is at least 10 years away.

But, he said, "It makes sense to be looking for big solutions."

David Wilby, director of the Independent Energy Producers of Maine, also was in the audience.

"I think there's some real possibility there," he said. "We just don't have many other choices."

King's lecture comes at a historic time for wind energy in Maine. Several wind farms are in the works around the state and Maine's Legislature approved a bill on Friday intended to streamline regulation and encourage more wind farms.

Maine Gov. John Baldacci plans to sign the bill Friday during a ceremony sure to draw supporters from the environmental community and industry.

The law doesn't address regulations for offshore wind projects. A statewide task force recommended that the state aggressively support the idea, but concluded that offshore wind remains too expensive and faces too much regulatory uncertainty to be an immediate contributor. The technology is a decade away from being cost -effective, the task force concluded.

King said the rapidly rising cost of oil and gasoline is changing that view.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

Pellets from nearby for schools

Kennebec Journal

April 15, 2008

Valarie Tucker

STRONG -- The Geneva Energy Maine wood pellet mill owners and SAD 58 representatives began discussions on plans to convert their school system to wood boilers.
SAD 58 Facilities Supervisor Dan Worcester and School Board Chairman Mike Pond met with mill owners Ben Rose and Jonathan Kahn on Friday. At last week's school board meeting, Worcester received support to begin the process, starting with the heating system at Mt. Abram High School.

"We made great progress, and we look forward to working with them," Worcester said. "We've looked at other pellet suppliers, but we'd rather do business with a company in our back yard."

District superintendent Quenten Clark decided that western Maine was the equivalent "of Saudi Arabia, but with wood instead of oil."

Schools and municipalities need to find ways to finance the change to wood pellet boilers, and the SAD 58 school district has applied for a grant that might let it convert all the schools at once.

The mill's owners are already fielding calls about the availability of the pellets, but the long harsh winter, Kahn explained, means they must compete for a limited and more expensive supply of wood they will need to stockpile.

"We have over $7 million of planned investments necessary to retrofit the mill to produce wood pellets for both the retail and wholesale markets," Kahn said by phone on Sunday. "We have all of our DEP permits and equipment contracts in place that should allow us to be producing pellets by late fall."

The former Forsters Manufacturing toothpick mill closed in 2003. Jeff and Lucinda Allen bought the mill and kept the electricity generating plant operating. After several prospective deals and partnerships dissolved, they sold the building and property to Geneva Energy Maine LLC in January 2008. The Illinois-based principals have retained Jeff Allen as the power plant supervisor and have begun meeting with wood suppliers.

Kahn said they are exploring the option to generate electricity for the mill and the pellet manufacturing process, but they may decide it makes more sense to buy electricity than to produce their own.

"It will depend on the electricity pricing we can negotiate with suppliers," Kahn said.

The company expects to hire several more employees after they have secured wood supplies and installed pellet processing equipment.

"We will work with the Wilton Career Center when we're able to start a full-time operation to produce the pellets," Kahn said. "We're committed to this project. We've had lots of meetings and had tremendous feedback and support from everyone in Franklin County and at the state level."

Technology Smooths the Way for Home Wind-Power Turbines

NY Times

April 15, 2008

Correction Appended

Wind turbines, once used primarily for farms and rural houses far from electrical service, are becoming more common in heavily populated residential areas as homeowners are attracted to ease of use, financial incentives and low environmental effects.

No one tracks the number of small-scale residential wind turbines — windmills that run turbines to produce electricity — in the United States. Experts on renewable energy say a convergence of factors, political, technical and ecological, has caused a surge in the use of residential wind turbines, especially in the Northeast and California.

“Back in the early days, off-grid electrical generation was pursued mostly by hippies and rednecks, usually in isolated, rural areas,” said Joe Schwartz, editor of Home Power magazine. “Now, it’s a lot more mainstream.”

“The big shift happened in the last three years,” Mr. Schwartz said, because of technology that makes it possible to feed electricity back to the grid, the commercial power system fed by large utilities. “These new systems use the utility for back up power, removing the need for big, expensive battery backup systems.”

Some of the “plug and play” systems can be plugged directly into a circuit in the home electrical panel. Homeowners can use energy from the wind turbine or the power company without taking action.

Federal wind energy incentives introduced after the oil crisis of the late 1970s helped drive large-scale turbine use. But the federal government does not currently provide a tax credit for residential-scale wind energy, as it does for residential solar applications, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group for wind-power developers and equipment manufacturers.

A number of states, however, have incentive programs. In New York, “we have incentive levels for different installations, but a homeowner could expect to get approximately $4,000 per electric meter for a wind turbine,” said Paul Tonko, president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which administers the state’s renewable energy incentives. “That would cover about 30 to 40 percent of the project cost.”

“Certainly, the technology has improved, and the cost per project is coming down,” Mr. Tonko said. “Turbines for farms and residential applications are seeing much more activity.”

States have also enacted so-called net metering laws that require utilities to buy excess power made by a residential turbine at retail rather than wholesale prices. “Many of the barriers to residential turbines have been lowered, but net-metering removes what may be the biggest barrier,” said Jim Green, a senior project leader at the Wind Technology Center, part of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

“Along with state incentives, net metering entirely changes the economics of residential wind generation,” Mr. Green said.

Ecological concerns, more than cost savings may drive many new residential turbine installations. “People want to reduce their carbon footprints,” Mr. Tonko said. “They’re concerned about climate change and they want to reduce our reliance of foreign sources of fuels.”

Mr. Schwartz, the editor, said that even with the economic benefits, it can take 20 years to pay back the installation cost.

“This isn’t about people putting turbines in to lower their electric bills as much as it is about people voting with their dollars to help the environment in some small way,” he said.

Despite growing interest, some hurdles will not change. Whether a residential turbine saves a money or just eases ecological guilt depends largely on the wind . The wind energy available in any given location is called the “wind resource.”

Even if the wind is strong, zoning and aesthetics can pose problems. “Turbines work in rural areas with strong wind,” Mr. Schwartz said. “But in urban and suburban areas, neighbors are never happy to see a 60- to 120-foot tower going up across the street.”

Wind tower proposal on table in Addison

By Eric Russell
Friday, April 11, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

ADDISON, Maine — Bonnie Thompson said she wasn’t optimistic when she applied last fall to erect an 80-foot wind tower on her property in Addison.

Town ordinances in this coastal Washington County community only allow structures shorter than 50 feet, or 35 feet if the property falls within the designated shoreland zone near the Pleasant River.

But Thompson said she felt that the debate over alternative energy sources such as wind power was one worth having, even in her small town. So, after failing twice to get a variance from the town’s planning board, Thompson explored the process of amending the municipal height ordinance to allow taller towers.

Thanks in large part to her tenacity on the issue, the Addison Board of Selectmen voted unanimously on Wednesday to put the question out to voters.

"At least it will go to the voters. That’s all I wanted," Thompson said Thursday. "If the townspeople vote it down, they won’t hear from me again."

John Woodward, town treasurer and administrative assistant to the Board of Selectmen, said Thursday the town would begin reviewing Thompson’s proposed ordinance amendment. The process will conclude with a vote at a special town meeting, likely sometime this summer.

"We’ll take a look at what she’s written and obviously we would schedule a public hearing before any vote," Woodward said.

Thompson’s proposal would amend Addison’s building ordinance to allow residential wind towers up to 100 feet to be installed. The amendment would only apply to towers, Woodward said.

Generally, single residential wind towers or turbines are shorter than 50 feet, but Thompson said that simply wouldn’t be enough.

"I’m happy to put up a 50-foot tower if I could. It would certainly cost less," she said. "But the efficiency of a wind tower is determined to some degree by its height. In order to be efficient, it has to be significantly higher than the trees, and there are trees on my property that are 40 feet."

Commercial wind turbines often are taller, but the town has not yet been approached for that type of use.

"I don’t know that we’ll get an abundance of applications for residential wind towers, but most townspeople seem to agree that it’s good for the town to explore alternative energy options," Roger Yochelson, the town’s planning board chairman, said. "If we do get some interest commercially, of course we’ll sit down again and discuss it."

As it stands now, if a resident applies to install a tower, the town’s code enforcement officer still needs to inspect the site.

"A lot of towns feel that if folks have a piece of land and are doing something within what codes allow, we let them be, especially Down East," Yochelson said. "Most people involved in the discussion felt [wind towers] were a good idea."

More and more residents across the state are exploring single wind towers as an option for alternative energy. The city of Ellsworth has seen a handful of wind towers installed recently. All are shorter than 50 feet to comply with Ellsworth’s height restrictions.

Single towers range from $10,000 to $15,000, but tax breaks are available. The energy produced does not go directly to the homeowner, but instead becomes part of the power company’s grid and the turbine owner is compensated for the energy produced.