Will someone please introduce Gov. Janet Mills to Google? And while you’re at it, please send the link to her staff and team of “experts.”
In what is becoming a familiar occurrence, the Mills Administration made a major announcement this week, just days after the federal government released information that contradicted the goals of the state’s new policy – something easily avoided if they had simply done their homework before the announcement.
On July 21, the Mills Administration announced it is doubling down on its efforts to get more Mainers to buy heat pumps. Saying now that the state had met its original goal of 100,000 new units, it had set a new goal to add 175,000 more of them by 2027. While bragging about its accomplishment, administration officials seem oblivious to an announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that could spell disaster for heat pump owners.
Ten days earlier, the EPA announced the final rule on reduction of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), harmful, ozone-depleting chemicals used in refrigeration. The rule dictates a phasedown of production of HFCs by 40 percent over the next five years and to 15 percent of their baseline levels by 2036.
This creates a problem for those in Maine who invested in heat pumps over the last several years because many of these heating and cooling devices use this soon-to-be-eliminated chemical as an essential part of their cooling systems. Some have argued that the promotion of devices that use a harmful chemical (HFCs) is acceptable because the harm done is outweighed by the harm caused by the fossil fuels currently used to heat homes. Others look to the creation of replacement refrigeration chemicals that do not harm the ozone as a major step toward progress. Either way, safely replacing one chemical with the other can cost several hundred dollars.
The EPA has been working on this rule since at least 2021, so no one can say they did not see it coming. Still, the Mills Administration promoted the sale of 100,000 of these units despite the approaching ban on their key chemical ingredient, perhaps in the belief that the new replacement chemical would solve the problem. Unfortunately, for two major reasons, it most definitely will not.
Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) are considered an organic-based alternative to HFCs and are gaining in popularity among heat pump manufacturers. The European Union, however, is expected to ban use of HFOs in the next several weeks because, among other issues, they contain so-called “forever chemicals” known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS. Anyone paying any attention to Maine politics over the last few years knows the importance of PFAS—or they should. Encouraging another 170,000 new PFAS containing machines into Maine’s environment would only worsen this disaster. Ironically, European scientists are now recommending propane, a flammable fossil fuel, as an alternative to HFCs and HFOs.
Then there is the Governor’s laughable effort to lower Maine’s CO2 emissions by encouraging the use of electric vehicles (EVs). There are many factors that make widespread use of electric vehicles in Maine’s near future a pipe dream. First, the world has already maxed out, or nearly so, its ability to mine the minerals necessary to create the batteries for these vehicles. The mining of cobalt, as just one example, is a horrific enterprise with a tremendous human and environmental toll.
This past week, Time magazine published a story from the Maine Monitor that points out the world’s richest known lithium deposit lies in Western Maine and is estimated to be worth $1.5 billion. According to Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), it could be extracted in a manner that is as environmentally safe as granite quarrying. Despite this, and an enormous worldwide hunger for the lithium, DEP had not allowed its extraction, and the Maine State Legislature finally passed a new law last month making it possible, but the worldwide supply still lags far behind demand.
The inadequate supply of minerals is one of many factors driving up the cost of buying and operating EVs. Maine’s ever-rising electricity rates push the cost of operation farther and farther out of the reach of even middle-income Mainers. This is a big reason why the Mills administration has fallen far short of its goal to put 219,000 EVs on Maine roads by 2030. When I say far short, I mean the state has accomplished only 4% of that goal over the first three years.
Despite the promises of those who aggressively pushed expansion of solar power in Maine that the opposite would occur, regulators have finally begun to admit that solar power has caused electricity rates to rise again and again over the last eighteen months.
Solar is already, by far, the most expensive form of electricity available today, and will continue to be for years to come. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2022, electricity for residential use in the U.S. (measured in one million BTUs) using solar power cost $42.67. This is three times the cost of natural gas ($14.3/MMBtu) which the Mills administration has repeatedly and falsely blamed for the spike in electricity prices. EIA projects that by 2050 that gap will widen as natural gas prices decline in relation to solar.
Ironically, more than half of the power distributed by Maine’s current electrical grid comes from natural gas, and only 4% from solar, so the goal of replacing this cheap source of energy with expensive solar power will only push electrical rates higher.
Sadly—or maddeningly given how unnecessary it is—this push toward solar power and electric vehicles is punishing Mainers, especially lower income Mainers, and for no justifiable reason. Though framed by the urgent need to save the planet, there is nothing Maine can do about global climate change because Maine’s contribution to this environmental issue is practically zero.
.000098 – That’s how much of the world’s CO2 emissions come from Maine annually. Maine’s total impact on the climate is so small that it is almost statistically unmeasurable. If every source of CO2 in the state ceased tomorrow—if we permanently turned off every light, furnace, vehicle, or other power source and lived like our ancient ancestors—it would have no measurable impact on the climate.
According to the EIA, Maine emits a total of 14.4 million metric tons (mmt) of CO2 each year. According to the University of Maine, our state’s vast forests remove nearly three-quarters of that from the atmosphere. When one subtracts this sequestered CO2 from Maine’s total emissions, its net annual output is just 3.6 mmt. Since the CO2 output of every country across the globe impacts the world climate, we must measure Maine’s impact against that of the entire planet. In 2022, the world emitted 36.8 gigatons. Thus, Maine’s CO2 emissions represent .00098 of the world’s total—just one unit out of 10,222.
Even if Maine could reduce its impact on global climate change by cutting its CO2 output by 50%, which is wildly unrealistic given current technology, sea levels would still rise at the same rate and oceans would still warm in the same way. Nothing would change about the impact that humans have on our climate. Maine is simply too small a player in this very large worldwide situation.
The only thing that will change, however, is that poor Mainers will be ravaged by higher energy bills, businesses will avoid and flee the state due to higher expenses, and our people will continue to suffer because Gov. Mills and her scientifically illiterate staff feel compelled by quasi-religious environmental beliefs.
According to the International Energy Agency, the increase in worldwide emissions in 2022 alone, amounted to nearly 100 times Maine’s total annual emissions.
For lack of access to Google among its government leaders, or a collection of senior advisors who are willing and able to conduct basic research before making major decisions that negatively impact the daily lives of real people, Mainers will continue to suffer from higher electricity rates and the downward economic pressure that comes with misguided government policies that hamper economic growth and investment. This is all due to the false belief that we have anything to do with global climate change and can play any role in its solutions.