Mainers are blessed by lots of water and sunshine. Both have been somewhat controversial lately.

We’re far behind other states and countries in creating solar energy, mostly because our political leaders can’t seem to get together on this. As we read in an editorial in this newspaper in June, “Political division has kept the state from modernizing its regulation.” And this question was asked in that editorial: “Is Maine going to be able to take part in the new energy boom, or will our politics force us to keep sitting on the sidelines, where all we can do is watch.” Today, we’re still sitting on the sidelines. And that’s a real shame.

In fact, much of the solar power generated today in our state is sold out of state. Phil Coupe, the co-founder of Revision Energy, said it well in an editorial page column, writing: “Other states are controlling the cost of the grid by incentivizing solar and by forcing utilities to implement new technologies that make the existing grid smarter and more efficient. Here, our governor and transmission utilities joined forces to make war on solar.” Very sad.

And there are some folks in our state who would like to stop us from benefitting from our wonderful water sources. These folks really don’t like Poland Spring bottling company. Last year they sponsored legislation to tax the water Poland Spring processes in Maine.

I attended the hearing on that bill and learned a lot. For example, while Poland Spring uses about 1 million gallons of water each year, taken from several sources, Wyman’s of Maine blueberries in Washington County takes 1 million gallons a year from a single aquifer. And no one was proposing to tax Wyman’s, but I know that, if they are able to tax Poland Spring, they will eventually get around to taxing all of us who draw our water from the ground under our homes, including me.

Kim Cook of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine offered excellent testimony on this bill, saying, “Abandoning the well-established law governing ground water in favor of state ownership and control raises significant concerns that ground water will be difficult or impossible or potentially much more expensive to use if the state takes over the resource, as proposed in this bill.”

At my Mount Vernon home, our drilled well accesses water from an aquifer. I’ve tested our water and it’s very good. And yes, it’s our water. I’m grateful that the Legislature did not change this.

I also appreciate what Poland Spring is doing for our state, providing lots of jobs in rural communities that desperately need those jobs. The announcement that the company plans to open a plant in Lincoln, which was devastated when the paper mill close there, is very good news indeed. The company also donates generously to many projects in the areas where they have bottling plants, and to state conservation groups and projects.

Every year 1.8 million children die from lack of water or diseases they got from tainted drinking water. In India, millions of girls don’t go to school because they spend each day walking to get water for their families. At least 40 percent of the world doesn’t have good access to water or has to walk to get it.

I am hoping Poland Spring and other companies will figure out how to ship water economically so that we can share Maine’s bountiful supply of water with folks who need it all over the world.

And please don’t misunderstand me. I am a strong advocate for our environment, including clean water. I think the mining bill, years in the making, was probably our most important accomplishment in the Legislature this year. We now have the strongest mining rules in the nation.

Linda and I were birding in Arizona last April and I was astonished to find rivers that had no water in them. I have a photo of a river sign, on a bridge across the river, but there is no water in that river. In fact, it’s filled with trees! I was told that ranchers and miners take all that water.

I was impressed by all the solar arrays we saw as we traveled around southeast Arizona. That state now has a cumulative solar capacity of 2,303 megawatts, while Maine has just 19 megawatts. Pathetic.

We are very fortunate that our state’s environmental organizations have worked so hard and effectively to protect our state, including our water. Sadly, we just have not been able to move our political leaders in the right direction on energy issues.

Soon, we’ll have a chance to elect a new governor and legislators. I hope you will press them on these issues, so we can finally move our state toward a future where we are energy independent. Just imagine how prosperous we’d be if we could retain the $8 billion we now send out of state to pay for our energy.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.