New independence for western Maine

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A lot of people talk about energy independence these days but, in SAD 58, people are actually doing something about it.

Under the leadership of Superintendent Quenten Clark, this school district in Maine’s western mountains has decided to take a bold step toward using renewable resources to heat its schools. What a concept.

Clark calls it a “no-brainer.”

He’s right.

Likely tired of waiting for the state or the feds to lead on energy issues, the SAD 58 Board of Directors decided Thursday to buy a corn stove and storage silo to heat the district’s bus garage in Salem. Earlier, the board agreed to add a wood chip boiler as soon as the state approves wood heat for public schools.

The board’s decision to invest $15,000 Thursday for corn heat isn’t revolutionary. It’s a move long overdue by government, small and large.

It may also be visionary in that while many people have a difficult time understanding timber as a renewable resource, corn is a crop that grows in a season.

Leaders in Washington and Augusta must move quickly toward building a biofuels economy by freeing funds and creating better incentives for those willing to innovate and lead, as SAD 58 is. After all, every dollar the district saves on heating costs is a dollar that can be returned to the classroom.

Creating a government demand for biofuels – government is a large consumer of energy in general – spawns new industry and jobs in rural communities where corn and timber can be grown.

The district’s decision Thursday not only saves taxpayer dollars, it also helps keep those dollars in the region.

That’s energy independence.

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