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This is Governor John Baldacci.

Earlier this week, we held the first meeting of the Ocean Energy Task Force.

I created this Task Force last month so Maine could take an important step toward energy independence and security.

The membership includes some of Maine’s best minds and creative thinkers from the both the public and private sectors.

Former Governor King, George Hart from the Ocean Energy Institute and Professor Habib Dagher from the University of Maine have agreed to participate with an all-star line up from around the State of Maine.

Like me, the members of the Ocean Energy Task Force are excited about the possibilities of harnessing the Gulf of Maine as a resource for renewable energy.

Wind, tidal, wood energy hold tremendous opportunities for Maine.

When you combine the energy that they produce by tidal power with wind and solar energy, along with additional alternative energy sources, we can make a significant difference for our State and our country.

Earlier this week I visited a wood pellet facility in Bethel.

Burning wood can be cleaner, and a greener way to heat homes and businesses than burning oil.

Kicking the oil habit and using an existing Maine resource like wood will help keep valuable financial resources of hard working Maine families and businesses here in the State.

With the gasoline prices hovering around $1.80 a gallon this week and home heating oil getting closer and closer to $2 a gallon, it is easy to fall into a false sense of security thinking that energy prices have leveled off.

Not to sound like “The Grinch,” but energy prices will go up again as our national economy begins to show some signs of recovery from this recession.

We must remember that prices fell from record highs in just two months … and it would not be a surprise if they went back up even faster.

While prices continue to fall, there are reports that already the oil cartels are working to raise the price of a barrel of oil. They’d like to see the price increase from its current level of about $40 - $50 a barrel upwards of $75 - $90 a barrel.

Additionally, OPEC has talked about a severe cut in oil production to help raise the price of oil.

I, for one, am sick and tired of OPEC dictating how much we spend in Maine for a product that we depend upon to be able to work and keep our homes warm and to power our economy.

I have been through enough oil-contrived disasters to know that if we don’t change the way we do things, the crisis will continue.

And that is why I am establishing the Ocean Energy Task Force and that’s why it is important.

They are going to develop recommendations on strategies for ocean-based wind, tidal and wave energy.

It is also to update information regarding offshore oil and gas resources that might exist in the waters off Maine and explore the changes in technology that may make those resources available.

Every idea and possibility should be explored.

And we will ensure that the benefits of any enterprise off the Maine coast are carefully weighed against the potential impacts on the environment and our marine industries.

The Task Force will present interim findings by April 1st, with final recommendations due by October 31st.

Developing energy resources in Maine will help create jobs, keep hard earned dollars in Maine, and it also holds the potential to make energy more efficient and affordable, with benefits for homeowners and businesses alike.

By exploring new opportunities and working together in the best interest of the State, we can make Maine a world leader in renewable energy.

We have the natural resources, we have the experts willing to explore new ideas … now all we have to do is be willing to put these new ideas and plans into action.

Thank you – and have a great weekend.

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