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Good day.

Winter arrived in Maine this week, dumping a foot or more of snow across the State.

A December snow storm in Maine is hardly news. But the first storm of the year always brings out the sweaters on TV news, puts reporters on the side of the road with rulers and generally gets the crowds out to the supermarkets.

This week was no different.

What is different this year is that high oil prices are making winters teeth even sharper than normal.

Truck drivers in the State are facing record-high diesel fuel prices, and just about everyone is bracing for the next heating oil bill.

Gasoline is biting into almost everyone’s wallet.

And families and businesses are anxious about making ends meet and hopefully having enough left over for Christmas.

It’s a difficult time, and for some, they’re standing on the very edge.

Maine’s forest products industry has been especially hard hit. The men and women who haul logs out of the woods and the ones who then transport the finished products to the market are finding it difficult to compensate for diesel fuel that’s topped out at more than $3.90 in some parts of the State.

Last Friday, I set down with a group of truckers who were asking for help.

I wasn’t able to do everything they wanted. But I told them that we will do what we can, as fast as we can.

And right after that meeting on Friday, I declared an economic emergency in Maine and issued an executive order that recognizes the crisis in the forest products industry.

By some estimates, the industry could lose 20 percent of its independent drivers if things continue. These are the small businesspeople who create jobs, pay taxes and have helped Maine’s paper and forest product sectors survive difficult times before.

They are asking for help now, and we’re going to do what we can to answer that call.

We’re going to make it easier for them to get tax refunds from the diesel tax that they use for off road work.

I’m putting Legislation in to temporarily exempt parts and services necessary to keep their rigs running from the sales taxes.

And we’re going to make sure we don’t adopt any new regulations that are going to add pressure to them until the economy – and fuel prices have stabilized.

I’m also meeting in Washington with the Congressional Delegation and federal administration representatives to push for weight limits being raised so that we can get these trucks off the state and local roads where they are expending too much on fuel and mileage. In terms of safety, we need to get them on the interstates where the weight limits need to be raised.

We need to also pass anti-speculators legislation so that we can enforce laws against speculators from driving up the prices of crude oil, which have a ripple impact on diesel and gasoline prices.

And we need to push for additional low-income heating assistance. Half of all of our recipients are senior citizens on fixed incomes and we can’t afford to let them go cold this winter.

I’ve also asked John Kerry, my director of the Office of Energy Independence, and Karin Tilberg, who is a senior policy analyst in my office to work together with the trucking industry and the forest products industry to continue to dig into what we can do to be helpful – and we are going to be as helpful as we can. We are going to work with this industry. It’s an important part of the State of Maine and they need our help.

And it’s not just the truckers who are struggling.

As I pointed out before, we have 50,000 families who depend upon low-income heating assistance, and we need to make sure that we keep them warm this winter also.

So, as I pointed out before, our State can’t solve the energy crisis by itself; we need leadership from Washington. But we can – and we are – taking steps to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and to loosen the grip it has on our economy and our people.

At sundown on Tuesday, our Jewish friends and neighbors began the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah honors the victory of the Jewish Maccabees over the Greeks more than a thousand years ago.

After the victory, the Maccabees rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem, but they did not have enough oil to keep the lights burning as required.

As the miracle is retold, a single day’s supply of oil burned for eight days, enough time for more oil to be made.

The story is not about oil itself.

Instead, it’s about resilience and survival and faith.

We join this week in the celebration of the festival of Lights, and we know that despite the difficulties we face, Maine people will come together, help one another out and make it through a difficult winter.

Thank you and Happy Hanukkah.

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