April 25, 2018
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Back Obama on energy independence

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
This artwork by William Brown relates to solar and other alternative energy sources.
By Normand Laberge, Special to the BDN

President Barack Obama’s vision for energy independence seems to be emerging. It seems the plan is based on a comprehensive assessment of our resources and technological capabilities.

For liquid energy, the new sources include biofuels and greater dependence on our indigenous fossil fuel. Everyone seems to admit that we will continue to use fossil fuel for heating and transportation until a scientific breakthrough identifies a new technology and-or resource.

Since America has 3 percent of the world population and uses 25 percent of the fossil fuel production, we have a responsibility to optimize oil production within our borders while employing the best available technology. It also makes sense to reduce the expenditure of energy from the wellhead to points of demand by increasing domestic production. Risks are minimized by reducing the delivery path and by controlling the operation under rigorous standards.

For this reason, I support President Obama’s initiative to increase domestic oil production. I also think that the Obama Energy Vision will include greater reliance on domestic supplies of natural gas under similar sets of guidelines.

President Obama’s secretary of energy has expertise in biofuel science, and this background will be useful in developing liquid energy by using our agricultural strength and adding value to forestry

operations. Therefore, fuel for our homes and transportation eventually will come from domestic sources with the understanding that we have a moral responsibility as a grand user of fuel.

Energy conservation and improved efficiency will assist in reducing the demand while expanding the industrial infrastructure and creating jobs. This element seems to be ingrained in the Obama plan, which includes clean coal technology for gasification and greater dependence on solar energy.

Coal generates approximately half the U.S. supply of electricity. President Obama seems to envision greater dependence on wind, photovoltaic arrays, water power, and other potential sources still in development. Once again, this transition will create employment opportunities and expand industrial capabilities.

Nuclear energy and more traditional and exotic sources of alternative energy have been added to the mix and will require an immediate investment exhibited by an increase in the cost of electricity in return for long-term stability and independence from limited resources of energy.

This vision, which seems to be emerging with time, offers a promising future and a partial solution to our present economic problems. President Obama is a smart guy, and he has a few smart guys around him. We need to give him time, have confidence in his style, and work together for improvement.

For Maine, we have wind both on land and offshore for electricity. We have a real need for energy in the winter, which can be supplied by solar energy through our clear skies. Maine’s forest and agricultural resources are being considered for biofuels, and our work force is wellversed in construction technology and innovative approaches. I doubt that we ever will have a nuclear power plant, but the Wiscasset infrastructure is being considered for an underground pumped storage facility.

I live in Washington County where we generate more renewable energy than we consume for residential, commercial, and industrial demands. A wind project on Stetson Mountain, wood-chip plants and

hydroelectric facilities on the St. Croix provide this renewable and mostly clean source of electricity. I am quite sure that residents burn more wood for home heat than the average Maine family. Proposals

are being considered in Washington County for more wind, photovoltaic, waste-to-energy and tidal power generation.

In my case, I have worked for the past three years on a tidal power project for Half-Moon Cove. I think that we have made the project environmentally acceptable while trying to expand regional development

benefits. The project reflects a grassroots approach to best use the local resources, to reduce dependence on external sources, to plan for the future and to maximize local opportunities. President Obama’s energy vision is worthy of support since it represents an important building block for this nation’s sustainability, but it will con-tinually require refinement as part of an objective assessment process.

Normand Laberge is the founder of Tidewalker Associates and lives in Trescott.

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