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Devastating energy prices have claimed another business in Maine.

We learned this week that Katahdin Paper will indefinitely close its mill in Millinocket.

Simply put, the company can’t afford the oil it relies on for its operation.

The closing of this mill is unacceptable. About 200 hardworking people are going to lose their jobs. And a town already hit by difficult times faces another hardship.

Frankly, I’m angry.

For too long, our country has been without a common sense national energy policy.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. With the direction of the White House, the federal government has mortgaged this country’s economic future to the oil companies who control much of the world’s oil supply.

I saw this problem back in 2003. We recognized it was time to make changes and that was when oil and gasoline were about $20 a barrel, not $120 a barrel. I created the Office of Energy Independence and Security because I wanted to create a laboratory which businesses and homeowners could take advantage of without the sense of urgency.

I was determined then, and I’m more determined now that we must end our reliance on costly foreign oil, and we must take greater control of our energy destiny.

The signs were clear this past winter: cheap oil is a thing of the past. First, it was the independent truckers that began to suffer, go out of business, as diesel prices set record after record after record.

Home heating oil prices have crippled family budgets, making it difficult for families to stay warm.

And the burden of high energy costs is making its way into every sector, driving food costs higher and higher.

It’s got to end.

In Maine, we are pursuing aggressively an alternative energy strategy. We passed a new law this year that will make it easier to develop wind power in the state. We have over $2 billion in wind power projects, both planned and those that are on the drawing boards.

My Wood-to-Energy Task Force is working as we speak to explore the potential of alternative energy creation from our forest resources.

We were the first – and perhaps the only – state that utilized renewable energy for all state buildings.

And this is important for businesses, large and small, and households.

We have programs available through Efficiency Maine, the Finance Authority of Maine, and Maine Housing to help businesses and families improve their energy efficiency.

And in April, we held the Governor’s Conference on Energy Efficiency, which brought together some of the sharpest minds in the country to help businesses better understand how they can reduce energy consumption and costs.

I am working with New Brunswick to end the death grip that our regional electricity grid has placed on Maine consumers and businesses by unnecessarily driving electric prices higher.

There is another way. These problems can be solved.

A partnership between the University of Maine and Red Shield Environmental in Old Town has developed a method to produce ethanol as part of the pulp-making process.

The innovation has the potential to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, provide a boost to our paper industry.

You know, oil companies are making record profits while working men and women are struggling to get by.

Every dollar we spend on oil and gas gets shipped out of state, to countries that rarely have our best interest at heart.

We must begin a serious transition. And that requires leadership at every level, especially at the federal level.

The federal government has got a very important role to play because this should be a national energy policy and it’s painfully obvious that our country cannot continue along our current path.

Maine will continue its aggressive pursuit of alternative sources of energy. We will support and expand our use of wind, wood, water and we are going to take our place as leaders in the production of clean renewable energy.

But while we wait for a new presidential administration and a smarter national energy policy, we are going to do every thing we can to help our people who have been hurt.

We took action to try to ease some of the burden on Maine truckers by reducing regulations and tax load on their industry. We have come to the aid of low-income families who need heating assistance.

And we are making every resource available to help Millinocket recover. We are fully engaged with Katahdin Paper, and we will do everything possible to help get this facility back up and running.

In the meantime, we are going to provide support to the workers harmed by this unfortunate decision. The Department of Labor and our rapid response team is ready to move in to help the workers.

And we will do every thing we can to help re-open this mill and put people back to work permanently.

The world is changing and we can’t be content to let our industries and people suffer while oil companies get rich and foreign powers undermine our economy.

Maine is moving forward. It’s time for the federal government to join the effort too.

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