Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Report from Maine

From: New Maine Farmer

Me: A former financial industry reporter and editor who saw the second plane burrow into the South Tower from the street below. After folllowing Peak Oil developments since the March 1997 Scientific American cover, "The End of Cheap Oil," that told me all I needed to know about the future. A year later I cashed out, sold the apartment, moved back home to a small farm in Maine, in a town west of Penobscot Bay where my brothers and sisters live.

Besides the unemployment and shortages reported elsewhere, we've also seen something else that hasn't been widely reported. For the past two, three months people who own summer places in Maine have moved up here "for the duration." Plus a lot of Mainers who worked out of state have moved back to live with friends and family. My brother has a cottage on a lake north of Bangor, and the people on both sides of him - one from Providence, the other from Baltimore -- have been winterizing their places. They truly expect the cities to burn this winter if this crisis continues.

More ominous, maybe, is the new military activity up here - and the reason I'm writing this report. Yesterday I talked with a market gardener up in Caribou, in northern Maine. Loring Air Force Base in nearby Limestone was a huge bomber base that closed in the early 1990s. Longest runway on the East Coast, closest base to Europe, its own underground command post, a brand new hospital mothballed but quickly usable, extensive machine shops. Parts of it have been leased to various businesses, including my friend's greenhouse operation, but the runways and hangers remained unused. Four weeks ago a plane landed with a team of technicians. They had the control tower and runway lights up and running within hours, and almost immediately flights of cargo planes started landing - BIG cargo planes filled with people, equipment, and supplies.

The military - a mixed bag of Air Force and Army - has evicted most of the leaseholders. My friend, Kevin, is the exception, but he now has just one customer for his greenhouse-grown produce, the base chow halls. Curiously, the base commander has offered him official help to expand his operation before winter.

Kevin has helped military buyers contract with local farmers for potatoes, oats, wheat, barley, beef, and pork, far more than the several thousand people there would need. Military crews have the old power plant up and running again, and it's been modified to burn wood chips. Engineering units have put up more than a dozen modular homes, and Kevin says they're talking about at least 100 before snow flies. The reinforced perimeter fence is constantly patrolled by guards on foot and in armored Humvees.

Officials have promised base personnel that their families will join them in another six weeks. "There are NO civilian contractors on base," Kevin says. "Everyone is wearing a uniform, and they're working 24/7 to get the base set up and secure." According to his source, the officer in charge of food supplies, "They're setting the base up as a fallback position when the Pentagon disperses operations away from D.C. A chunk of the military leadership will move to Loring." He said "when," not "if."

It makes sense. Northern Maine has 13 people per square mile, no major U.S. urban areas within a tank of gas, and plenty of food and fuel. It's the perfect spot for a military survival station. But it also tells us what the powers that be in Washington are expecting, and that makes me very uneasy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes- I've noticed a steady stream of second-home folks as well here- I have NO idea of whom most of these people even are. Was planning on writing about that when I have a chance. Wonder if these people are planning on staying for awhile? Hope they brought food-if they are just planning on taking out a Bambi or two for grub it could get interesting.