Friday, June 20, 2008

Could Maine get out in front on the energy issue?

[from the New York Times, June 19, 2008
article by Martin Fackler and Jad Mouawad]

As President Bush calls for repealing a ban on drilling off most of the U.S. coast, a shortage of ships used for deep-water offshore drilling promises to impede any rapid turnaround in oil exploration and supply.

In recent years, this global shortage of drill ships has created a bottleneck, frustrating energy-company executives and constraining their ability to exploit known reserves or find new ones. Slow growth in oil supplies, at a time of soaring demand, has been a major factor in the spike of oil and gasoline prices.

Mr. Bush called on Congress on Wednesday to end a long-standing federal ban on offshore drilling and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil exploration, saying the steps were needed to lower gasoline prices that have topped $4 a gallon and to bolster national security.

But as oil trades at more than $135 a barrel — up from $68 a year ago — the world's existing drill ships are booked solid for the next five years. Some oil companies have been forced to postpone exploration while waiting for a drilling rig, executives and analysts said.

Escalating energy costs will have a chilling effect for many Mainers. While I would never call former Governor Angus King an alarmist, he recently offered a pretty sobering scenario for our state, unless we radically change the way we are doing things, and stop settling for the status quo.

While Mainers by-and-large are cautious, and even somewhat conservative, I don't think those characteristics will continue to serve us well.

Fluke, or not, the unemployment rate recently spiked in Maine. That means there are some people that need jobs, preferably ones that pay a living wage.

An educational Marshall Plan, targeted at providing Maine's workforce with skills that could address needs for drilling ships, offshore wind turbines, as well as green manufacturing would be a boon to our state. Rather than continuing to issue four-year degrees in areas that may become obsolete if oil goes much higher, why not arm Maine's future workforce with gold-collar skills that play well in a post-petroleum world?

I know some people in Central/Western Maine that know something about workforce training, and could help the Governor, and anyone else in Augusta that had a grand enough vision to believe that we could tackle this issue. In fact, there are some visionary people in Maine that could help marshall a plan for Maine's future that would blow anything else recently proposed, out of the water. Former Governor King, Peter Vigue, of Cianbro, Les Otten, and many other private sector leaders need to help push our state forward in a direction of pragmatism, practicality, which in my opinion, will lead to future prosperity.

Maine has a history, and heritage of building ships. We also have a memory of manufacturing, and a workforce that can work with its hands. Combine that with a technological orienatation, and a plan that's proactive, and this has Dirigo (as in I [Maine] lead(s)) written all over it.

As Jack Schultz says, "...Vision is the difference between a ghost town and a Boomtown."

Note: From the Petrobras website, a drill ship is a vessel designed to drill subsea wells. Its drilling tower is located midship, where an opening in the hull allows the drill string to pass through. The drill ship positioning system, consisting of acoustic sensors, propellers and computers, cancels out the effects of the wind, waves and currents that tend to move the ship from its position.

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