Baldacci: Don’t count on low fuel prices

Posted Dec. 13, 2008, at 12:59 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. John Baldacci said he doesn’t want to sound like a grinch, but he’s warning Mainers not to count on lower fuel prices lasting very long.

In his weekly radio message Saturday, Baldacci said it’s easy to fall into a false sense of security thinking that energy prices have leveled off.

“Not to sound like the Grinch, but energy prices will go up again as our national economy begins to show some signs of recovery from this recession,” the governor said in a text of his message. “We must remember that prices fell from record highs in just two months — and it would not be a surprise if they went back up even faster.”

This underscores how important it is for Maine to kick the oil habit and use existing resources like wind, tidal and wood energy, said Baldacci. He noted that his Ocean Energy Task Force met during the past week to begin developing recommendations for wind, tidal and wave energy from the Gulf of Maine.

“I, for one, am sick and tired of [the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] dictating how much we spend in Maine for a product that we depend upon to be able to work and keep our homes warm and to power our economy,” said Baldacci.

The task force will also update information on offshore oil and gas resources that might exist in the waters off Maine, and explore the changes in technology that may make those resources available.

“Every idea and possibility should be explored,” Baldacci said. “And we will ensure that the benefits of any enterprise off the Maine coast are carefully weighed against the potential impacts on the environment and our marine industries.”

In the Republican response, House Minority Leader Josh Tardy of Newport seconded the governor’s warning not to get too comfortable with the present fuel prices.

Tardy, of Newport, said the opinion of many who spoke at the Ocean Energy Task Force meeting was that the state will need to make a sweeping transition to electric heat and electric and hybrid vehicles to maintain Mainers’ present way of life.

“Clearly, we will need to generate massive new amounts of electricity to make this transition possible — about three times as much as we produce today,” said Tardy. While companies have built and continue to build wind farms in Maine, “the serious potential is offshore,” said the GOP leader.

Backup energy supplies would still be needed during times of low wind, and “none of this will come easy or cheap,” Tardy said.

“As you can see, we’ve got problems as well as opportunities. But very soon, we will have to decide which way to go,” he said.

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