Maine has one of the oldest housing stocks in the country, along with the greatest percentage of houses heated with heating oil of any state. This is a serious vulnerability at a time when we can assume that oil costs are only going to increase in the long run. What is already unaffordable will only become worse. I am in favor of alternative energy sources, conservation incentives, and incentives for homeowners to improve their energy mix. I am in favor of Maine's wood pellet and wood chip fuel industries to help keep us warm as we move away from oil.
To be sure, there are emissions associated with these forms of heating, and that is a real issue, but with catalytic converters and burners using the latest technology, they can be kept to a minimum. And when the fuel is sourced near where it is used, the emissions relating to transportation and processing are reduced considerably. Almost all of every dollar spent on oil goes immediately out of state, yet we have the ability to keep the entire biomass fuel supply chain in Maine, creating jobs, along with a sustainable form of heating. Local logging, local chipping, local hauling: there is no single answer to any of Maine's or the nation's energy problems, but these fuels are clearly a piece of the puzzle that can help our state, especially its rural areas.
There is also a significant opportunity to create jobs and reduce oil use by extending low-interest loans and other incentives to encourage weatherization, insulation and heating efficiency improvements.