AUBURN – Former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman of New Jersey appeared on behalf of the McCain campaign, and toured the architectural and engineering firm Harriman Associates in Auburn on Thursday afternoon.

Whitman served as the Bush administration’s first head of the Environmental Protection Agency, but resigned after about two years due to policy disagreements with the administration. She now works for an environmental and energy lobbying group.

“You don’t sacrifice anything when you go green,” Whitman said after getting briefed on several of Harriman’s recent building projects.

Harriman, well-known for building energy-efficient buildings around New England, recently designed innovative dormitories for Bowdoin College and the University of Southern Maine. The dorms seek to maximize energy efficiency and engage students living there in conservation techniques. The firm also designed the renovated Lewiston City Hall and the Bates College Carnegie Science building.

Clifton Greim, Harriman’s president and chief executive officer, led Whitman through the company’s 20-year-old building, showing off its geothermal capabilities.

“We are using half or less than half of the energy we would need because of this system,” Greim said, standing next to a 30,000 gallon tank of water that alternatively helps heat or cool the building, depending on the season.

Geothermal heating systems take advantage of the near constant temperature of the earth, cycling water from under the ground throughout the building. In the winter, the water from below the earth helps warm the building and in the summer, it helps it cool. Geothermal systems generally maintain a base temperature and are supplemented by other sources of energy, such as electricity to get up to a comfortable temperature.

After the tour, Whitman spoke about the environmental policy and energy plan put forth by Republican presidential nominee John McCain and how it differs from current federal policy.

“(McCain) is committed to the issue of climate change and insuring and moving toward a carbon-constrained economy,” Whitman said. “That in and of itself is a big difference. He’s also bringing a lot of attention to this.”

Whitman said McCain supports a cap-and-trade carbon policy and a “comprehensive” plan.

“It includes looking at renewable (energies) and conservation … but also looks at nuclear energy and drilling,” she said. “His drilling proposal to me makes sense, because it says there are some places that are appropriate to drill and there are some places that aren’t.”

Whitman said one of the challenges facing the country is the public’s inclination to reject developing new sources of energy.

“Nobody wants drilling, nobody wants to talk about nuclear energy, nobody wants to have a (liquefied natural gas) facility anywhere near them, coal is bad and even wind power is suspect, because of its ‘visual pollution’ and birds don’t come out looking the same,” she said. “So we say no to everything, but the point is, we are constantly demanding more power.”

Whitman said McCain’s approach differs from Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s plan, which she said avoids looking at clean-coal technology and nuclear power in realistic ways.

Asked for a response to Whitman’s characterization of Obama’s plan, the Obama campaign released a statement by former Maine Gov. Angus King, who has been speaking out on behalf of Obama. The statement said Obama’s plan will invest in energy production and decrease the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

“Barack Obama will cut taxes for the middle class and help build a new energy economy that will create 5 million jobs that cannot be outsourced,” King said in the statement.

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