AUGUSTA, Maine — Energy, and fuel prices in particular, were on Gov. Paul LePage’s mind as he gave his weekly radio address.
LePage pointed out in his Saturday address that gas prices during the past week reached $5 per gallon in Washington, D.C., and $4 in many parts of Maine.
“Chaos in the Middle East, the value of the U.S. dollar, and price speculation has steadily led to higher oil prices,” LePage said in his text. “Unfortunately, Maine is dependent on a world oil market to supply transportation fuel and heating oils. In the short term conservation will help minimize costs, but it is only a small portion of the solution.”
LePage said he urges President Barack Obama to look for immediate alternatives, including oil and gas exploration and production in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, portions of the Rocky Mountains, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the Atlantic and Pacific. LePage said he also has directed Ken Fletcher, director of Maine’s Office of Energy Independence, to find opportunities to lower the cost of energy to Maine consumers.
LePage’s address included some positive news: The U.S. Energy Information Administration has released price data that indicate Maine’s average retail price of electricity has decreased. In 2009, Maine had the 10th-highest electricity prices in the country, but now Maine is in the No. 12 spot.
“We are moving in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go to where we need to be,” said LePage.
In the Democratic response, Rep. Emily Cain of Orono focused on the wider legislative agendas the administration and her minority caucus are advancing for the final weeks of the 2011 session.
Cain, the Democrats’ House leader, countered LePage’s claims that her party has refused to come forth with alternatives to his proposals.
“Since the start of the legislative session, Democrats on every policy committee have provided strong proposals to counter the extreme agenda of the governor and Republicans in the Legislature. Time and again our common sense ideas on regulatory reform, the budget, toxic chemicals, and public safety have won out over radical proposals,” Cain said.