Friday, August 22, 2008

Maine Resolve: Fighting a Long Term

When we think about natural disasters in the United States, we usually think about hurricanes in the Southern states, wildfires out West, or tornados and flooding in the Midwest. But a winter in the Northeast? Unfortunately, with the energy crisis looming, most of us in Maine and the Northeast are rightly concerned about making it through this upcoming winter season.
As with most natural disasters, it is usually the weather person that alerts citizens about an approaching disaster. This advanced notice provides valuable time for emergency response to prepare and address an event before, and as, it occurs. Here in Maine, we are looking at common sense numbers and economics to provide us with our warning of a pending disaster.
The hard facts are easy to understand.
Essentially 100% of Mainers depend on petroleum products to fuel our vehicles and 80% of us rely on oil to heat our homes. Heating and transportation fuel costs have increased 100% over the last five years. This equates to 10%-20% of most Mainer’s monthly incomes. Hence, our long-term disaster-in-the-making.
Recently Senator Peter Bowman, along with Representatives Dawn Hill and Walter Wheeler, hosted an Energy Conservation Forum in Kittery to listen and discuss what we can do as individuals and a community to prepare for this winter. The Director of Maine Housing and a representative from Efficiency Maine presented programs implemented through their respective agencies and offered recommendations to better prepare for the colder months. The audience consisted of concerned residents, local officials, and also members of the newly-formed Kittery Energy Committee, all of whom also provided valuable insight on what we can do as a community.
It was evident, following the forum, that preparedness for this winter will rely on coordination at all levels – federal and state governments, municipalities and local organizations (e.g., civic, fraternal, religious), families, friends and neighbors, and individuals. Together we can make a difference.
Some ideas that were mentioned that evening are worth considering as options to reduce energy costs:
Explore the option of a home energy audit to identify areas to improve your home’s energy efficiency; Weatherize your home, or at least winterize your home. A properly weatherized home can reduce fuel consumption by 20%; Government should increase the visibility and availability of Keep ME Warm kits and organize volunteers to help winterize homes of our neighbors and elderly that may need assistance; and Communities should consider fundraising options (e.g., conduct spaghetti suppers, donate to local fuel funds, sponsor furnace cleanings of homes, or even school fundraisers that sell energy efficient light bulbs instead of candy).
These are all great ideas and a great start to take action. Specifically, Senator Bowman wants to thank General Assistance Administrator Kathryn Pridham. She understands the situation facing Mainers this winter and offered to serve as a point of contact for volunteers looking to help in the community. She is also organizing efforts to collect money for fuel assistance. Please contact her at 475-1309 for more information.
Additionally, here are a few more ways you can help:
Donate to the Keep ME Warm Fund at www.mainecommunity; Go to for more information about volunteer needs and opportunities; and Stay in touch at for more information about energy-related resources.
Senator Bowman will be hosting another energy conservation forum with local representatives, this time in York, on Tuesday, September 9 from 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm at the York Public Library. Just like the forum in Kittery, this will be open to the public. He is also hoping to do a similar event for Eliot/South Berwick in late September.