By Richard Eidlin
With the right set of policies, New Mexico can become one of nation’s leaders in the rapidly growing clean-energy economy. Such policies, as adopted by other states, create thousands of good jobs, attract investment, stimulate innovation and address climate change. New Mexico is already a serious player, ranked 12th in wind capacity and second in solar capacity. But as other states implement policies to reduce carbon emissions and ready themselves for an eventual “cap-and-trade” program, New Mexico has to keep up.
For a moment, the state’s clean-energy future was looking rather bleak. However, that changed with the State Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling that Gov. Susana Martínez had violated the state constitution by rescinding the Environmental Improvement Board’s decision to reduce the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 3 percent. The governor’s stated goal of finding a “balance between economic growth and environmental stewardship” would not have been achieved either.
As Colorado, California, Oregon and many other states have demonstrated, policies that address greenhouse-gas emissions do not impair economic growth. To the contrary, they enhance it by attracting venture and institutional investors and new high technology and manufacturing companies.
Colorado, for example, established itself during the last four years as a globally recognized clean-energy leader. With the implementation of 57 clean energy bills, the state government, working closely with the private sector, universities, labor and other partners, helped to create more than 6,000 new jobs and attract hundreds of new companies. Colorado is now home to the fourth-highest concentration of clean-energy workers in the country, the second-highest renewable energy standard in the nation, and the first law in the country that converts old and inefficient coal plants to cleaner natural gas. Global companies such as Denmark’s Vestas and Germany’s Siemens and SMA Inverter opened manufacturing facilities as a result.
The EIB’s percent reduction in greenhouse gasses will begin in 2013 and will apply to facilities that produce more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon emissions. That means a relatively few very large companies will be covered. By placing a cap on emissions, New Mexico now sends a strong signal to investors around the world who seek an economically stable environment and are increasingly reluctant to direct money into high-risk dirty industries. As William Wiley, President of the state chapter of Republicans for Environmental Protection, testified last year, “we can show the rest of the nation that we are forward looking and welcome green industries … This is not a draconian measure. All of the U.S. will come to this point at some time. We can lead and not follow.”
According to the Pew Center’s Program on Climate Economics of the Climate Leadership Initiative, New Mexico is potentially one of the states likely to be hardest hit by climate change, impacting our already vulnerable water resources. As a result of higher temperatures and drier lands, there will be an increase in wildfires. Besides the health and environmental impacts, there will also be huge economic consequences.
Businesses, large and small, public and privately owned, utilities and manufacturers appreciate the upside to setting sensible carbon-reduction goals. With the cost of conventional fossil fuels rising, the nation’s future economic competitiveness depends on it.
While we agree with the governor that federal action on addressing greenhouse gasses is preferable, the challenges to our state’s economic viability and community health cannot wait for the Congress to act.
Richard Eidlin is the campaigns director for the American Sustainable Business Council. He lives in Denver.