More than just green in the trees of Maine

Mainers for all time have been closely tied to the environment. Wilderness survival skills were essential for explorers and early settlers if they were to make it in the harsh environment. They trusted in themselves and their skills – and little else.

Later, those skills were used for profit as woodsmen utilized their knowledge to find timber for sawmills and ship masts or guided hunters and fishermen to the bounty of the wilderness.

And later still recreational outdoorsmen and women went into the woods for the sheer enjoyment of being in the outdoors with little or no desire to take from it anything other than the experience and perhaps a few trout.

This closeness continues today in the stewardship of what remains wild in Maine.

But much damage was done in the past to the planet’s environment. It does not take a Bowdoin graduate to know things are not going to add up in the long run if we do not work to fix some of the past damage to ease current and future concerns for the planet’s survival.

It is encouraging, then, that Maine seems to be stepping forward in overall efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to increase the use of alternative energy sources to replace power generated from the burning of petroleum products. Wind farms are beginning to dot the Maine landscape and harnessing ocean waves is likely to be a large component in Maine’s future energy picture, as will be the increased use of solar power.

These three energy sources will be especially important as oil companies turn away from producing home heating oil in order to produce other fuels. [I recall as a child when the delivery truck from the local oil distributor would pull over to the side of the road near our home on the hill overlooking Portage Lake, Maine, and drag a nozzle and hose to the side of the house to pump oil into a pipe that led to a holding tank in our cellar. There were times during the winter that the driver would be forced to climb over towering snow banks and through thigh-high snow while towing behind him the heavy nozzle and hose. Home heating oil fueled the heater and warmed the home in winter, but it did not smell particularly good – which may have been a clue as to just how unhealthy it was to be around the stuff.]

A fossil fuel expert earlier this week said that Maine’s midcoast may be at the center of harnessing wave energy. Matthew Simmons is the co-founder of the Ocean Energy Institute, which plans to open an office in Rockland, Maine, in the next few months, and was one of the keynote speakers at the 2009 Sustainable Island Living Conference there last weekend, according to a Herald Gazette story.

He said that oil, natural gas and coal all had passed their peak production and that there were no plans for what would fill the energy void. Ocean Energy Institute is working with the state, the University of Maine and the U.S. Department of Energy on floating windmill pilot projects off Maine’s coast.

We must move away from fossil fuels and continue the development of sustainable sources such as solar, wind and wave. In the meantime, it is important to do what can be done now to help, including visiting the Efficiency Maine website for tips and other information.

Maine is moving in the right direction.

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