A new Ocean Energy Task Force, created by Governor John Baldacci last week, is charged in part with investigating the realities of drilling for oil and gas off the coast of Maine. But the main focus of the task force will be to facilitate offshore wind-energy production and in-state wind-related technologies and business; the 17-member panel, comprising representatives from relevant state agencies and industries, will also look at wave and tidal power.
The federal Minerals Management Service has said that the outer continental shelf off the coast of Maine does not have significant oil or gas reserves, but Baldacci has directed the task force, in the wake of renewed national interest in offshore drilling, to "compile objective, credible, and scientific information on the offshore oil and gas resource, including: the latest technologies available for oil and gas exploration and extraction; the adverse environmental risks associated with the development of this resource;" and the potential economic benefits for the state.
Maine's congressional delegation opposes offshore drilling, as do big environmental advocacy organizations like the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the state chapter of the Sierra Club. Still, Joan Saxe, energy chair of the Sierra Club's Maine organization, admits that having such information on hand will be important as national drilling efforts move forward.
"It's important to know all of that," she said, "to be prepared."
The task force will report initial findings to the governor in April, and final recommendations are due by Halloween 2009.
No doubt they'll hone their conclusions at the EnergyOcean Conference, scheduled to take place in Rockland in June. Baldacci announced in August that Maine would host this event, which brings together hundreds of leading scientists, politicians, and businesspeople. It is the annual conference of the Ocean Energy Council, an advocacy organization based in Washington DC, which supports wind, thermal, wave, tidal, and solar energy technologies over offshore drilling.