The Maine Climate Council’s four-year plan includes multiple initiatives that would lead us to carbon neutrality by 2045, an essential goal.

Transportation produces 53% of Maine greenhouse gas emissions, home heating 18%, industry 10%, fossil fuel power plants 9% and 10% from other sources. To reduce the two largest sources of emissions the plan is to electrify transportation and heating. But it will be a major challenge to do so with fossil fuel prices as low as they are today. While electric vehicles and heat pumps both save money over time, much bigger financial incentives are needed to encourage people and businesses to rapidly make the transition to electrical transportation and heating. On an inflation-adjusted basis, Maine gasoline prices are lower than they were in 1980 and heating oil is lower than 1970 rates.

To manage fossil fuel prices, there are necessary actions at both the state and national level. The federal rate gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon hasn’t increased since 1993 and Maine’s 30-cent tax has been frozen since 2011. At a federal level, we just add to the soaring federal debt, and at the state level we issue transportation bonds. In both cases we’re just passing problems into the future instead of making sacrifices now, just as we are with our climate inaction.

Another way to deal with fossil fuel prices at a federal level is the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763), from the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. The bipartisan bill would start with a $15 tax on fossil fuels per metric ton of their relative emissions, increasing by $10 each year.  The revenue would be returned to every citizen in the form of a monthly dividend expected to reach over $4,000 per year by 2030.

Since the dividend would be an equal amount for all citizens, it would benefit the poor since the wealthy use significantly more fossil fuel. Rather than regulatory legislation, H.R. 763 would change incentives, encouraging all citizens and businesses to reduce their fossil fuel use and carbon sequestration would be priority for the fossil fuel industry. The Massachusetts senate recently approved similar legislation.

Also critical to the Maine Climate Action Plan is the fact that the electrification of heating and transportation could double electricity demand. Currently in Maine, the sources of electricity are 30% from hydroelectric dams, 25% biomass, 20% natural gas, 21% wind, 1% solar and 3% from petroleum and other sources. Since Maine electricity production is shared with that of other states within the New England grid, note that New England electricity sources as a whole are 48% natural gas, 29% nuclear, 7% hydro, 9% wind and solar, 2% coal and oil, and 5% biomass and other. As the nuclear plants are aging, that major source is likely to decline.


It’s troubling that New England’s biggest power source, natural gas, is responsible for methane leakage from fracking and leaky pipelines along with water pollution caused by fracking all over the country including many in indigenous regions. The Environmental Defense Fund estimates that 25% of the planet’s warming to date is due to methane.

We need to replace natural gas and other fossil fuels while doubling overall power generation and that would quadruple the demand for clean energy. Wind and solar production needs to soar, but those sources alone won’t meet that challenge.

Consider Canadian hydropower from the NECEC, which would be New England’s biggest-ever clean energy project. Thirty percent of Maine electricity generation is from our own hydropower plants and is considered clean energy. But the No CMP Corridor crowd claims with no factual basis that Hydro-Quebec would not deliver clean energy to the New England grid (not just Massachusetts).

There are frequent No CMP Corridor complaints that the project would damage indigenous people due to methyl mercury water pollution, often referring to the Muskrat Falls hydropower plant in Labrador, which is not owned by Hydro-Quebec. Mercury is definitely released from reservoirs, but over time the mercury levels decline to normal lake levels. Hydro-Quebec owns 28 reservoirs, 25 of which are over eight years old, meaning their mercury levels are at a regular lake level. Reservoirs also emit methane after construction, but way less in the far north where, due to colder water and less vegetation, it only lasts a few years.

My point is that we absolutely need Canadian hydropower and other new clean energy sources to succeed with the Climate Action Plan. Opponents are proposing a referendum that would require a two-thirds legislative approval for new power lines more than 50 miles long as a way to prevent NECEC.

When much-needed major offshore wind turbines are installed they would require a power line once the cables reach the shore. Would that line be popular enough for a two-thirds vote? Also, power lines will be needed to battery storage facilities to deal with wind and solar variability. Hopefully, we’ll find new technology forms of clean energy sources for which power lines will also be needed.

Opponents also complain about tree removal and fish damage from the power line. Roughly two-thirds of the line is through an existing corridor, while the 53 new miles are through a heavily logged region with logging roads, equipment soil disruption and other disturbances.

If you think we can limit the looming climate disaster with just popular actions, please do the math. We must all manage our personal carbon footprints, because we’re the consumers. Do we have to drive an SUV or pickup, can we limit the use of mpg reducing roof racks and pods, could we participate in community solar, reduce or eliminate our air travel? It will require major actions at all levels to meet Maine’s great climate goals, so let’s accept our responsibility.

Tony Marple is a resident of Whitefield.

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