BANGOR, Maine — Former Maine Gov. Angus King told a crowd of listeners at the Bangor Public Library on Monday that he has never been more scared or concerned about the future.
“That’s why I’m supporting Barack Obama,” he said to sustained applause at an “Energy Solutions” forum, the first of three to be held this week in Maine featuring Maine’s former independent governor. “People don’t have a full grasp of how serious the problems we’re facing are.”
King talked for about a half-hour on the differences between Sen. Obama and Republican challenger Sen. John McCain when it comes to energy.
“‘Drill, baby, drill’ is not a policy,” he said, referring to GOP chants heard during the Republican National Convention last month. “It’s a bumper sticker, but not a policy.”
By contrast, King said Obama “gets it” on energy, particularly alternative energy options, something the one-time governor has worked on for more than 30 years. Recently, King has turned his efforts to advocating wind power through his firm Independence Wind LLC.
“Maine is the most oil-dependent state in the United States. Eighty-seven percent of our energy comes from fossil fuels, but we don’t make any of that here,” he said. “We’ve got to think of ways to get off oil. The only way to do it is to do it.”
King said Obama’s energy plan, which includes a $500 energy rebate to all Americans created from a windfall profits tax on oil companies and a $150 billion investment over 10 years in alternative energy, is a step in the right direction.
“He’s got ideas I wish I had thought of, frankly,” he said of Obama.
King also pointed out that Obama’s demeanor in the last two weeks while dealing with the nation’s financial crisis has been as telling as his policies.
“I don’t think I’ve recalled an event in the middle of the campaign give us such insight into how candidates react,” he said, calling Obama “calm and collected,” and McCain “all over the map.”
McCain regional spokesman Jeff Grappone, however, said Obama is the one who has been “all over the map on energy.”
“While he voted for George Bush’s energy bill in 2005, with its massive giveaways to Big Oil, Obama opposes offshore drilling and expanded nuclear power,” Grappone said in an e-mail. “His refusal to embrace common sense energy solutions, and his support for higher energy taxes, call into question Obama’s understanding of the problem and his ability to solve it.
“Either way, Obama’s approach stands in stark contrast to John McCain’s ‘all of the above’ energy plan, which includes expanded offshore drilling, nuclear and clean energy sources,” he said.
King disagreed and told listeners in Bangor that Maine has more at stake than most states because of its dependence on oil.
“If I haven’t depressed you enough, in 1998 Mainers spent 4 percent of their income on energy. Today it’s 19 percent,” he said. “This is a really serious problem.”
King will be host to another “Energy Solutions” forum at 7 tonight at the REM Center in Waterville and a final event at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Western Maine Community College in South Paris.