Invest in clean energy sources

Posted May 11, 2010, at 6:13 p.m.

In a time when so many Mainers are out of work, our economic problems are in plain sight. At the same time, our country is facing an energy crisis — one that threatens our economic recovery if we don’t solve it.

Today, America spends about a billion dollars a day buying oil from abroad. That’s about $42 million every hour, $694,000 every minute and $12,000 every second — and it’s money we could be investing in our communities.

The path forward is to invest in clean, renewable sources of energy that can create millions of new jobs and make our country more secure.

Recently I traveled with a group of Mainers to Washington to ask our senators to finish what they started, and move forward on comprehensive policies supporting clean energy in America. We were a diverse group, including Michael Stoddard of the Efficiency Maine Trust and Jim Bohlig, president of the Renewables Group for Casella Waste Systems. We delivered a unified call for action on clean energy legislation this year.

Right before we arrived in Washington, the Senate was expected to unveil a comprehensive clean energy and climate proposal. Unfortunately, a partisan dispute has led to a delay in its introduction. We told our leaders that they need to move forward now.

Every day the Senate fails to act on comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation is another day when millions of American jobs aren’t created, our country becomes less secure due to our overreliance on foreign oil, and our planet becomes more polluted because of harmful fossil fuels — while other countries leap ahead in this race for our clean energy future.

Clean energy is our future; it’s one of America’s fastest growing job sectors. With comprehensive policies to build a clean energy economy, we can create new jobs in all 50 states and up to 1.9 million jobs nationwide.

Maine is an energy rich state poised to take full advantage of federal clean energy and efficiency initiatives. By investing in technologies already in existence, Maine can harness our vast clean energy potential, reinvigorate our manufacturing sector, and create thousands of well-paying jobs in Maine. We can build the components required for wind, solar and tidal projects right here, instead of outsourcing those jobs overseas to China or India.

We know that Maine has the oldest housing stock in the country and that our houses are heated predominantly with oil. Comprehensive efficiency programs can create the jobs in Maine required to retrofit our homes, and save Maine families thousands of dollars per year in heating costs. Overall, the Center for American Progress projects that 10,000 jobs in Maine can be created through the passage of comprehensive federal reforms.

So it’s time to end the delays. Maine needs action from our leaders in Washington on a bold, comprehensive energy policy. This should include a limit on carbon from dirty energy sources, which can help make clean-energy profitable. A cap on carbon will level the playing field and signal that clean-energy is a safe, long-term investment.

This means clean-energy businesses can expand, and entrepreneurs can innovate. It means good jobs for construction workers and jobs for factory workers. It means jobs for autoworkers, electricians, plumbers, truckers, engineers and many others. These are the jobs that can make us all confident in our future, no matter where we live.

Rather than continuing to buy oil from abroad, we can invest that money here at home on clean-energy technologies that will make us more secure. Our dependence on foreign sources of energy, including oil from the Middle East, makes America more vulnerable. And carbon pollution from dirty energy sources endangers our planet and our health.

And the longer we wait, the more we’re in danger that our global competitors will overtake us. Last year, China invested almost twice as much as the United States in clean-energy technologies. America needs to lead the clean-energy race, not follow.

Now it’s time for our leaders to finish what they started. The time to act is now.

Heather Blease is the CEO of Savi Systems, a South Portland company with an energy consulting branch.

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