Maine’s Energy/Climate-Change Challenge
Fact: Each and every year in Maine real (and “corporate”) individuals collectively send outside the state billions of dollars to purchase fossil fuels (in 2014 it was $5.8 billion, in 2015 it was $4.3 billion – no DOE explanation for the drop but it’s probably a reflection of the drop in oil prices over that period). Because the money is sent away, it never recirculates within Maine, a needless 8-10% “off the top” drain on the state economy. (Nota bene: The numbers here were refined 6/5/18 and vary some from those cited in testimonies and other documents over the past several years. The correction is noted here and not incorporated or corrected elsewhere.)
Fact: A very substantial portion of Maine’s economy – e.g., tourism, the woods economy, fishing, agriculture, etc. – depends directly on our environment.
Fact: Maine’s environment – along with the rest of planet Earth – is directly challenged by humanity’s understandable but, in retrospect, dangerous addiction to ‘cheap’ (ignoring increasingly critical secondary costs) fossil fuels.
Fact: Maine lacks anything approaching a comprehensive plan for transforming our dependence on fossil fuels by extracting our energy needs from dependable, indigenous alternative energy sources available to us directly – solar, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal, etc.
Fact: Maine’s energy policy structure is neither rational nor orderly. It has grown like Topsy. On the legislative side it is governed by seven different committees (not including Appropriations). It has been weakly coordinated on the executive side over a half dozen or so agencies, and it lacks any support of a comprehensive policy research or policy management apparatus. It has, arguably, been resolutely marching backwards for eight years. Until multi-year-termed appointees from that era to energy-related policy and administrative boards bleed out of the system (or the structure and system are changed), the energy anvil will remain tied to Mainers’ necks for some years to come.
“Smaller” illustrative fact: Funds available from the Highway Fund for road and bridge construction and maintenance in Maine have been insufficient for some time. The mechanism used for almost a century – the excise tax on liquid (fossil!) fuels – has been declining because of rising fuel efficiency and the advent of electric and hybrid vehicles. Furthermore, engineers across the country understand that highway wear and tear is caused by factors (vehicle size and weight) having no direct relationship to how the requisite funds are currently raised.
Belief: No issue is more important to Maine than recapturing our energy supply, guaranteeing no selective negative consequences in the process, and assuring that the impact on the environment is rendered permanently neutral.
Conviction: Until Mainers come to understand the complex interlocking issues policy goals involved and our leadership successfully addresses their interactive elements, the only safe prediction is that we will all suffer from inaction and a significant portion of us will needlessly go through very painful upheavals. It need not be so. To prevent it will require good hearts, comprehensive attention, and long range planning in the public interest on a scale Maine has never been obliged to undertake.
This site aims to address these issues.
The sense of urgency was great when this effort began in 2015. It only expanded as awareness developed over how deep-seated and multi-dimensional are the underlying causes for our continuing inattention. Important structural characteristics in Maine State government itself are implicated as well. Over the years of my public advocacy — environmental issues, climate change, local farming, food sovereignty, mining regulations, and the like — I have watched too many intelligent, well-intentioned publicly-oriented citizen legislators enter their responsibilities bright-eyed and enthusiastic, but leave them chewed up and disillusioned, wondering just how often they have, knowingly or not, been ill-equipped to make their legislative decisions.
A citizen legislature is a great idea. But it cannot hope to address the complexity or the scope of contemporary issues facing it by the way they’re currently set up, with the “norms” which guide them, the analytic support they (don’t!) receive, or the “culture” in terms of which they currently labor. The conundrum is that we can’t possibty keep the best of what Maine now enjoys without making major changes in how we govern ourselves and how we understand the challenges facing us.
Over time I realized that even building the “Schema” (its website’s conceptual heart), even though it was not being formally applied in any way, fundamentally altered my perceptions about energy policy. It gave me a basis from which I might be able to formulate observations on energy proposals advanced from whatever sources. Thus began yet another, so far three-year, stage, a “Johnny Appleseed” approach to planting and germinating ideas concerning specific energy proposals forthcoming over time in the state.
The unfolding of the continuing effort and its evolution proceeds through emerging testimonies and “testaments” dated and identified in the three sections recording testimony product in each of the years of “The Project Effort Continued.” (2019 is still parse; I’ve been too busy preparing testimony to post it. There are, as of this edit, more than two dozen submitted. As soon as there’s a lull in public hearings, I’ll get to it.)
Since the January 2019 installation of Governor Janet Mills and the opening of the 129th Legislature, energy policy proposals have burgeoned forth. The dark night of the eight years of Mills’ predecessor has lifted; quite literally, dozens of initiatives have emerged.
Comments on this blog will be moderated. I reveal my name and contact info; if you expect to be posted, please use yours. Constructive feedback, contributions to the ongoing inquiry, and questions or suggestions that would add to the evolution and efficacy of the planning schema are solicited.
On the other hand, if you’re more interested in snark, or arguing against humankind’s responsibility for the climate change now hurtling down upon us, or against the science most recently updated by the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change, don’t even bother to engage. That ship has sailed! Contributing to constructive action toward long-range comprehensive energy planning for Maine to get Maine off fossil fuels is the sole purpose of this blog. In simple words, try to be kind and constructive, or please keep it to yourself. Thanks.
Hendrik D. Gideonse
Last updated May 11, 2019
[This blog activity was suspended for nearly two months in January/February 2019 when the new Governor’s Inaugural Address appeared to dramatically reduce the campaign goal for renewable energy and then days later her appointee to a new policy body acknowledged climate change in prepared remarks but said it would not be among the starting priorities for the office. Six weeks into the ennui of the situational depression which ensured for me, I undertook a 4-day ‘walkabout experience’ reading cover-to-cover David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth. Just as swiftly as it began, the depression dissolved; it suddenly struck me as an apparent unaffordable ‘luxury.’ I resumed the work. During the six weeks I had retreated to novels, I discovered that bills submitted to the Legislature had restored the campaign goals. Whether ‘bold’ personal letters sent to the parties involved (but not posted here) played any role in the goal restoration is unknown to me; my letters were not answered.]