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Change sought in energy use

A Portland-based environmental group hopes to convince Maine’s political candidates to pledge support for alternative energy and conservation.
The group, Environment Maine, plans to collect petition signatures and approach state and congressional candidates with a proposed energy platform it says would reduce dependence on foreign oil and reduce global warming pollution. “Our nation desperately needs to change its course on energy,” said Jennifer Anderson of Environment Maine.
Environment Maine’s proposed energy platform would, by the year 2025, reduce American oil use by one-third, increase clean alternative energy sources to 25 percent of all energy needs and reduce energy required by buildings and appliances by 10 percent, Anderson said. Elected officials can help achieve those goals in Maine by continuing to force cars to be cleaner and more efficient, expanding public transportation and encouraging alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and biofuels, she said.
The group doesn’t support the development of more nuclear power, saying it brings a range of other problems and is unnecessary. And it hasn’t taken a position on any specific wind-power projects, such as the proposed Redington Wind Farm in western Maine.
The group’s energy platform has the support of other groups, including Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Maine Center for Economic Policy.
“It’s clear that making better energy choices today will improve our health for generations to come,” said Dr. Peter Wilk, co-president of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Energy policies have come up in the campaign for governor. At a forum in Portland earlier this month, Republican Chandler Woodcock defended nuclear power as a long-term energy option and said wind power, on the other hand, generates minimal energy. Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, Independent Barbara Merrill and Green Independent Pat LaMarche all said nuclear power should have no future in Maine, while wind power should. Only Merrill specifically endorsed the Redington Wind Farm, however.
Whether that debate expands or spreads into other races could depend on oil prices, as well as other factors, over the next several weeks, according to political scientists.
Supporters of Environment Maine’s energy platform said falling oil prices will not eliminate problems such as dependence on foreign oil or climate change. The dropping prices helps illustrate the volatility in the market and the danger of remaining dependent on oil, said Ed Cervone, a policy analyst with the Maine Center for Economic Policy.
“We need to diversify our portfolio so that we can weather ups and downs (in oil supplies) and create a predictable climate for businesses,” he said.
Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: