Renewable energy can create jobs, help small farms

Posted Sept. 11, 2009, at 5:32 p.m.

There is no doubt that this year has been tough for families in Maine. In our state, nearly 20,000 people have lost their jobs since this time last year, and many more are struggling to keep their farms and small businesses alive. But the news isn’t all bad — we have an opportunity to turn things around by becoming a national leader in renewable energy, and that means jobs for our friends and neighbors.

Over the past 10 years, job growth in the clean energy sector here in Maine significantly outpaced the state’s total job growth. Our investment in renewable energy has resulted in thousands of jobs across the state and has the potential to create thousands more.

At our company, Burdin’s Renewable Energy, we see every day the potential for wind power throughout the state’s rural farmlands. We’ve been busier than ever installing new wind turbines for homeowners and farmers, and we’re increasing our staff to keep up with the demand. But it’s not just good news for us — it also means good business for the local companies that supply the 80-foot poles for our turbines. If we had businesses here in the state to manufacture the parts for the turbines as well as other green energy technology, we could put even more people to work.

In addition to creating new jobs, an investment in renewable energy will also help support existing businesses, especially small farms. Rural farmland offers the ideal conditions for wind power, which is why we should invest in transitioning farms to wind energy. Doing so would significantly reduce energy costs for farmers, help stabilize their businesses, and give the agricultural community in the state — men and women who’ve really been struggling — a chance to finally see their businesses thrive and grow.

Perhaps most importantly, renewable energy could give folks in our state real hope for the future. But to be successful we need the right policies in place.

Right now, the U.S. Senate is considering legislation that would create a cap on global warming pollution. Under the legislation, companies that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases will have a limit on the amount they can emit. Some companies will be able to keep within their limits and will be able to sell their allowances to other businesses. The plan will build a bigger market for clean energy products and services — and that means there’ll be a real opportunity for Maine.

The legislation will also help break our dependence on foreign oil. A system like the one being debated in the Senate, passed by the House as the American Clean Energy and Security Act, will cut oil imports by $20 billion per year, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

We need to take this opportunity to create jobs, support existing small businesses, and end our dependence on foreign oil. By next year, I’d like to see more folks in Maine with well-paying jobs in growing companies. Passing the clean energy bill will help make that happen.

Debra and Shawn Burdin are co-founders of Burdin’s Renewable Energy in Dexter.

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