NORWAY – Maine Director of Energy Independence and Security Beth Nagusky addressed the Running on Empty group Wednesday on the governor’s new energy bill and what the state has done and will do to lessen Maine’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Nagusky opened her presentation at the Fare Share Commons before about 20 people, explaining how her office came into existence after a 14-year period where there was no Maine central energy office. When Gov. John Baldacci took office in 2002, he made the establishment of an energy office a priority to reduce Maine’s dependence on fossil fuels, to address air pollution and climate change, and to create local jobs through the creation of indigenous energy production.

“Our first priority was to make Maine state government a leader by its own example in energy,” Nagusky said, “so we increased the purchase of renewable power for the state, we did efficiency improvements, we’ve installed a solar panel outside the State House, and we began using a biodiesel blend for heating.” Overall, she said, through these and other improvements, the state government fuel consumption has been reduced by 400,000 gallons in two years, and the greenhouse gas emissions from state government use has been reduced by 80 percent.

“This year,” Nagusky said, “we have had two hurricanes, oil going up to $70 a barrel, natural gas hitting $13 at one point this summer after the hurricane, and we are very dependent on natural gas for our electric generation mix: 60 percent of all the energy generated in the region is from natural gas, 75 percent is fossil fuel, gas and oil. We recognize that this is an extremely dangerous position to be in, we have put way too many eggs in one basket.”

As a result, she said she feels the political climate in 2006 may allow for stronger measures to pass than might have been able to get through even last year.

Nagusky then presented to the group Baldacci’s energy bill for 2006. Included are an item to increase renewable power resources, a tax reduction for motor fuels containing at least 2 percent biodiesel, mandatory appliance efficiency standards, as well as a proposition to amend the Electric Restructuring Act to reduce energy prices and increase fuel diversity.

Underlying much of the discussion was the idea that fossil fuel production must inevitably peak and come to an end, perhaps within a few decades, according to the theories of some geophysicists since the middle of the 20th century.

As far as facing this potential crisis in the future, “the states have to lead the way,” said Nagusky. “Washington is failing us.”

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