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Good day.

Today in Maine and across the United States, the cost of energy continues to hold back our economy. High gas prices make it hard for people to get to work and expensive for businesses to ship their products to their customers.

High heating oil prices leave many Mainers with difficult winter choices: Turning on the heat or going without other necessities.

And high electricity rates drive up the cost of doing business and force families to stretch their dollars even further.

High energy costs today are caused by electricity deregulation that hasn’t worked out as it was promised, federally imposed fees that do little to help Maine and a national energy policy designed more to protect the interests of big oil rather than the public interest.

We know that high energy prices hurt poor families the most, and make it difficult for business to add new jobs and protect the jobs that they have. A dollar spent unnecessarily on electricity is a dollar that can’t be invested in new technologies or new products.

This week, the Maine Public Utilities Commission, with my support, appealed a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that places a 6 percent surcharge on residential electric bills in Maine and a 10 percent surcharge on businesses here in Maine.

It’ll cost Mainer’s more than $300 million over the next four years.

For such a big price tag, you might think Maine is getting something of value.

Well, we’re not.

Instead, Mainer’s are suffering while energy companies receive huge windfalls.

Consider Huhtamaki. It’s a chinette plant in Waterville – over 400 people work there. I visited them this week to discuss the cost of electricity.

This unfair fee is already costing the company $65,000 a month.

The costs aren’t limited to the private sector. MSAD 47 in Oakland is spending an additional $22,000 a year because of the fee. That money comes straight out of your pockets in property tax dollars.

Maine can’t solve the country’s energy problems on its own, but we know we have the resources and wherewithal to improve our own situation.

My administration is aggressively pursuing new cooperation with New Brunswick that holds the promise of more stable energy markets and prices.

We are also supporting the development of alternative sources of energy, like wind power and bio-fuels, that could turn Maine into a real energy leader.

As an example, we’ve been working with the University of Maine, and Red Shield in Old Town on cutting-edge technology that allows ethanol to be produced during the pulp-making process.

Not only does it hold out great promise for cleaner-burning gasoline and energy independence, but the process has the potential to reinvigorate Maine’s paper industry.

Earlier this week, I kicked off a great program that will help families improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

It’s called “How Does Your Home Perform?” and there’s a link off the State of Maine Web site. The program helps families make their homes healthier, more comfortable, more energy efficient.

We bring contractors who are certified and trained together with homeowners, and make sure the work is high quality. Low-cost loans are also available so families can turn opportunity into action.

The loans range from 1% - 3%.

We’ve set achievable goals on renewable energy, we’ve established tax credits for the production of alternative fuels – so Maine is leading the way with our energy policies, but we need to do more.

Maine has been hurt by these high energy prices, but there is a plan, there is action, and we need to work together.

Our people are creative and motivated and are working on these new technologies and these new investments we need to break free from the strangle-hold of energy uncertainty.

We will continue to invest through the university in R&D innovation. We will pursue new relationships with our neighbors to the north and better deals for our people. And, when necessary, we will take our fight to court to stop punitive and unfair federal decisions that could hurt Maine families and businesses.

Thank you all and have a nice weekend.

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