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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

After oil prices peaked at more than $140 dollars per barrel, contributing to a global economic recession, it became clear to most people that things had to change.

We’ve seen high energy prices hurt our economy before. It started in the 1970s and the pattern has continued.

I can remember being in Bangor when oil shortages forced rationing and people had to wait in line for gasoline.

When I talk to businesses, the high cost of energy and transportation, which is energy related, are constant themes.

Business owners tell me that they can cut their costs, create jobs and improve the environment. . . . They just need a little help.

This week in conjunction with the Maine Public Utilities Commission, Efficiency Maine and the Energy and Carbon Savings Trust, Maine announced $8.9 million dollars worth of grants to Maine businesses.

The grants, which will leverage about $81 million dollars in private investments, will help to fund important energy improvements around the State of Maine.

With support from the federal Recovery Act, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates more than 950 jobs will be created.

And companies that currently employ 7,000 Maine workers will receive help in becoming more energy efficient.

That means real savings that can be re-invested here in Maine.

The projects are focused on Maine’s industrial sector and are spread around the State.

One good example is Verso Paper in Bucksport. Verso received a grant for $2 million dollars. This one project will convert the energy systems inside the mill and save roughly 5,000 gallons of oil a day.

Impressive by any standards, this investment will protect current jobs, create new ones and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Another good example is Tex Tech Industries in Monmouth. With a grant of $1.6 million dollars, this company will be able to reduce its operating costs, making it more competitive with its rivals overseas.

On Wednesday, the company told us that the grant will save 45 to 50 jobs that would otherwise have been moved out of the country.

That’s good news for those families, for those communities and for our State.

There are stories around the State: in South Portland, Madawaska, Hartland, Old Town and Brunswick.

The 16 projects are ready go, and the grants will put people to work almost immediately.

But even more importantly, they will help to create and protect Maine jobs for years to come.

We know that we have to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

Just take a look around the world at what’s going on.

In places like Iraq, Yemen and Saudi Arabian Peninsula, the struggle to secure oil forces our country into terrible decisions.

Whether you believe in global warming or not, reducing our dependency on foreign oil should be a question of national security.

If we can build renewable energy resources here in Maine, we will keep billions of dollars here at home – creating jobs and new investments – and out of the hands of people who would target our country.

But to reduce our dependency on oil requires a conscience and consistent effort.

It’s why I support developing Maine’s natural resources and renewable energy opportunities – whether its wind, water, wood or solar power.

And it’s why we remain focused on conservation and reducing our dependency for energy.

Maine is leading the way toward a new energy future.

Our success is built on innovative leadership and public-private partnerships.

Last year, the Legislature passed my comprehensive energy package, An Act Regarding Maine's Energy Future.

The law established the goal to weatherize all residences and 50 percent of businesses by 2030 and reduce the State’s consumption of liquid fossil fuels by at least 30 percent by 2030.

We have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy for our conservation and weatherization efforts.

Reshaping Maine’s energy future won’t be easy.

But it is critical for our State.

We can no longer allow our economy to be dictated by the price of oil produced in hostile foreign lands.

We have the resources, the people and the commitment to set our own energy course.

Now, there will be naysayers and critics and people who seek political gain by resisting change.

But we have in front of us great opportunities to put people to work and break our dependency on oil.

We must: For our economy, for good jobs, for a cleaner environment and for national security.

Thank you for listening and have a great weekend.

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