If Maine is to set an example on climate change, we’re off to a bad start.
Hello. I am David Woodsome, state senator from District 33.
I am a Republican who sponsored the bill that created Governor Mills’ Maine Climate Group, and there was a particular reason why I did so.
I submitted this legislation after a long conversation with Governor Mills about bipartisanship and working together on important issues, so long as we seek responsible, commonsense solutions to problems. A large part of my intention was to be involved in the process so I would be aware of and help shape the ideas and proposals being tossed around. Governor Mills and I agreed that we could disagree and still work together.
Specifically, I was concerned that many of the ideas generated by the Climate Council might lead to an unfair new burden on people in Maine’s poorest, rural communities.
At the same time, I feel it is very important that, in a free society, government educate people toward new behaviors, rather than force them via new laws and regulations.
Let me place the climate problem in its proper context regarding our state. Maine’s contribution to global emissions of CO2 amount to .0004 of the World’s total. That’s four ten-thousandths of the whole. By comparison, the State of Texas emits that much CO2 in about a week. China does so nearly every day.
If Maine were to completely eliminate its entire carbon footprint, it would likely have no measurable impact whatsoever on the climate, including global temperatures, sea-levels, and or ocean acidification. In fact, it is possible that, because of the carbon scrubbing nature of our forests, Maine is already carbon-neutral.
This should not prevent Maine from taking heed of its motto “Dirigo” or “I lead” by setting a tone and providing an example for the rest of the nation on energy policy. It should.
To do so properly and fairly, however, requires a balance and must convey a strong sense of legitimacy, commonsense, and fiscal responsibility. Setting a poor example will only harm Mainers, alienate potential supporters, and do nothing to alleviate the effects of global climate change.
Setting an example means taking action that one hopes others will imitate, thus encouraging some improved behavior. Setting a bad example, however, does more harm than good to one’s goals.
The newly installed solar panel at the Blaine House in Augusta is a poor example.
According to the Portland Press Herald, “The $63,000 solar-electric installation wound up being so uneconomical as a business venture that only one vendor bid on the high-visibility but money-losing job, picking prestige over profit.”
Symbolism and leadership are important when working toward societal change. Justifying the poor business nature of the investment, however, Governor Mills’ press secretary said that “the panels will annually offset the equivalent of burning 43 barrels, or 1,806 gallons of oil, with clean, renewable energy.”
The problem here the Blaine House is heated by twenty-two heat pumps that were installed a few years ago, so that the building uses zero gallons of oil. One cannot offset what they do not use in the first place. Also, Maine’s electrical grid is driven by natural gas, not oil.
Unfortunately, what this solar panel has done is embolden critics of solar power by sending the message that it can be a wasteful effort with little positive return.
Justifying this project based on non-existent oil consumption erodes confidence by suggesting that state government is not doing the in-depth research it should do before making these decisions. This type of outcome does great harm to efforts in Maine to improve our response to climate change.
As the Climate Council moves forward with its research and information gathering, I sincerely hope that its recommendations will be guided by a more common sense, fiscally responsibility approach that sets a positive example on climate change policy.
Again, I am State Senator David Woodsome of District 33. Take care and be well!