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This is Governor John Baldacci.

After a full season of overwhelming snowstorms and record cold temperatures and an ice storm or two, we are finally enjoying the first weekend of spring.

It soon will be warmer, the snow will melt and the sounds of snowsleds and snowplows will change to the sounds of motorcycles and children playing outdoors.

Springtime represents renewed feelings of hope and optimism, and the realization that brighter days are ahead.

And I firmly believe that brighter days are ahead.

While the weather is getting warmer, we need to continue thinking about alternative sources of energy.

We were lucky this winter that prices for heating oil and gasoline have remained relatively low. But let’s not forget - high energy prices were one of the leading factors that threw us into a very deep and prolonged recession.

And let’s not forget that a year ago gasoline was three dollars a gallon and rising.

And despite the fact that heating oil is hovering around a little more than two-dollars a gallon, many Mainers locked in with oil prices up around four dollars a gallon last summer.

So we continue to suffer at the hand of high oil prices.

The price of foreign sources of energy is unstable at best and potentially financially crippling at worst.

We cannot lose our energy focus as the days get warmer. We must concentrate on alternative forms of energy – renewable forms of energy.

Wind, water, wood and solar are all renewable forms of energy and readily available right here in the State of Maine.

And when we harness the energy in the State of Maine, we create jobs in this State.

The Stetson Wind Farm in Danforth, Maine celebrated its start-up two months ago. Through the development and construction of that project, 350 jobs were created and about $50 million dollars was spent with Maine businesses.

Now the project is up and running and providing sustainable jobs in Washington County; clean, renewable power to our energy grid.

Earlier this month, an expansion of Stetson Wind Farm known as “Stetson Two” was approved by the Land Use Regulation Commission, giving the green light to the $60 million dollar project, which will create 350 additional construction jobs in the process.

The Stetson Wind Farm is already the largest operating wind farm in New England and there are billions of dollars more in proposed projects on the way.

Wind is abundant in our State and off our coast. Turbines placed off the coast of Maine have the potential to produce more than 133 gigawatts of electricity. That’s just from wind alone.

That’s almost as much electricity as 40 nuclear power plants.

Building those turbines, operating that project – it has the potential to create good jobs here in our State.

There’s also impressive work happening in the development of tidal power, which captures the movement of the ocean to generate electricity. Ocean Renewable Power Company is field testing tidal power turbines right now near Eastport.

Wood pellets are being manufactured and used for heat throughout Maine.

In SAD 58, Superintendent Quentin Clark is heating one of his schools with wood pellets made eight miles away. The pellets are made in Franklin County, provided by a facility in Strong, Maine. Superintendent Clark wants to expand this program to every school in his district.

This is the kind of forward thinking we need to create our own energy independence and jobs in our State to support it.

Solar, hydroelectric and the potential for pumped storage also hold great opportunities for Maine.

Maine sits at the center of a growing energy hub, not only for us but for all of New England.

To the north in Canada, there are vast sources of clean, cheap and renewable energy. To the south, millions of people hungry for renewable, clean, reliable energy supplies.

Our location puts us in a position to become a renewable energy engine for our country. We can help deliver on the promise of a new energy future – one that reduces the impact on our climate; stabilizes and reduces the cost of electricity for Maine.

But if we want to capitalize on our advantages, we have got to be prepared to be aggressive.

We must transform our economy from oil and utilize more electricity for our energy needs. So we must strengthen and improve our electrical grid.

That means more reliable transmission and greater capacity to handle the new energy sources that are being developed.

The Maine Power Reliability Project will add over 2,000 jobs for nearly 4 years in our State, being able to make sure that our electrical grid has a reliability to it that should be there in cases of brown outs or black outs.

I am very excited about this project and the potential, but there are many other projects – billions of dollars to be expended and thousands of people to be put to work.

We need to be open to new ideas. We need to be able to work together to put every idea on the table in order for us to succeed.

The end result will give Maine more jobs, more opportunities, more energy security, and a leading position in our region’s energy future.

Thank you for listening and have a great weekend.

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