LITTLECRANBERRY ISLAND, MAINE -- At the bike rack behind the lobstermen's dock and in the inlet an hour's sail away from Seal Harbor that today is as still as a pond, the people have seized power. Muscle power. Wind power. Oil-less power.

About 25 bicycles, from rusty Raleighs to 18-gear all-terrains that require an MIT degree to operate, are at the village rack. On this island, not much larger than a golf course, citizens get around on their own Downeast, not Middle East, energy. The other alternative fuel is wind. Sloops, yawls and occasional ketches can be seen tacking their way between Little Cranberry and the mainland two miles west.

At a war-whooping moment when the U.S. military is poised to carry out orders for mass slaughter in the Persian Gulf to keep America well-oiled, Maine -- sensible Maine -- is among the leading six states for using energy from renewable resources.

Wood, water and wind account for 27 percent of Maine's energy consumption. Twenty-eight percent of its electricity is from wood and agricultural waste products, with California next, but well behind at 18 percent. Forty-five states are below 6 percent. All these years of lucking out with environmentally minded politicians -- Edmund Muskie, Joseph Brennan,Breaking America's oil addiction would not lead to a future of sackcloth and ashes. William Cohen, George Mitchell, Olympia Snowe -- have coupled with native Yankee self-reliance to offer the rest of the country an example for overcoming the self-destructive addiction to imported non-renewable energy.

In his Sept. 11 speech to a joint session of Congress, George Bush, after the mandatory stomping of Saddam Hussein that is all the rage now, issued a one-line, passing bow to energy realism: "Conservation efforts are essential to keep our energy needs as low as possible." No elaboration was offered, nor a syllable uttered on the specifics of how to shift the country to renewable resources. Only Jimmy Carter, among recent presidents, took conservation and alternative energy seriously. Midway in his term, he commissioned an administration-wide study on such possibilities and then delivered several speeches that earned him a scoffing as a worrywart bent on needless asceticism.

Bush, the ex-oilman, spent the 1980s serving an administration that cut by 90 percent federal R&D money for renewables. According to Public Citizen's critical-mass energy project, "For every dollar the U.S. spends on energy research, less than six cents goes to all the renewable energy technologies combined. The U.S. now spends more money each day {$136 million} to pay for its oil imports than the federal government spent during all of 1989 for renewable energy research and development."

A materialistic society such as the United States is easily frightened into thinking that breaking its oil addiction will lead to a future of sackcloth and ashes. Kenneth Bossong of Public Citizen states that we can relax: "Energy efficiency does not mean hardship for individual citizens or for the economy. Japan and West Germany, for example, use only half as much energy per unit of gross national product as does the U.S. while maintaining robust economies and high standards of living."

A decade ago, the alarmist argument against renewable energy was the high cost. Bossong reports that "wind and solar thermal technologies have had price drops of 50 percent since 1980. Today, most renewable energy technologies are cost-competitive and, in many cases, even cheaper than new oil, coal or nuclear facilities."

In Maine, a spirit of self-reliance is overtaking self-indulgence. The thinking of Henry David Thoreau, whose tramping through the Maine woods produced lyrical prose to match the beauty of the state's forests, had a thought still honored here: "A man is rich in proportion of the number of things he can afford to let alone."

Unless it wants more of Saddam Hussein, the United States can afford to let alone imported oil, which is 49.9 percent of what it consumes. The percentage of renewable energy used in Maine and five other states would, if matched in all states, be roughly equal to the energy currently provided by all U.S. oil imports.

All these years that Bush has been coming up to Maine, you'd think by now he'd have a clue.