New Mexico’s future lies in leading the nation toward a 21st Century clean-energy economy.
“Instead of taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s never been more profitable, we should be using that money to double-down on investments in clean-energy technologies that have never been more promising – investments in wind power and solar power and biofuels; investments in fuel-efficient cars and trucks, and energy-efficient homes and buildings.” -President Barack Obama, March 29
President Obama has once again called for a sensible and comprehensive energy strategy for our nation, and his words have never rung more true.
New Mexico possesses the intellect, technology and natural resources to be a world leader in creating jobs around sustainable innovation, energy production and wealth generation.
As our children are confronted by the new realities of a global economy, we can’t afford to see the world in yesterday’s terms. At the end of World War II, only the United States had a functioning modern economy, but by the end of the Cold War, we had been competitively joined by Europe and Japan.
Today, it is increasingly clear that Russia, China, Brazil, India and other emerging economies have arrived and are going after the same scarce natural resources, ready to partake in the benefits of a modern consumer-and-manufacture based economy.
Our children must now compete in a hyper-connected world shaped not only by tremendous interdependent economies, but by diminishing traditional natural resources and tumultuous social change.
Simply, the solutions of the past will not solve the problems of the future.
Time for a bolder and more aggressive vision
Few places on earth are endowed with such a rich history of cultural diversity and environmental beauty, and few have such incredible resources as New Mexico. But this alone will not carry us successfully into the future. We must never forget our heritage and our inextricable link to the earth around us that informs and shapes our New Mexico values, but it is now time to cast a bolder and more aggressive vision of how New Mexico can prosper in the future.
In Central New Mexico alone, we have an incredible array of assets that will serve as a launch pad for our new economy, including the highest number of PhDs per capita of any state in America.
Sandia Laboratories is a world-class center for innovation; the University of New Mexico has great schools of engineering, anthropology, archeology and international studies; Intel is a great corporate citizen and local job creator; and New Mexico has extraordinary natural resources, including bountiful sun, wind and natural gas.
As your representative, I will forge a strong bond between our congressional delegation, state and local leaders, educational systems, as well as business and labor interests to craft legislation that utilizes our natural and high-tech resources to promote sustainable, long-term wealth and job creation in New Mexico’s clean energy economy.
New Mexico’s future lies in leading the nation toward a 21st Century clean-energy economy. To reach these goals, we must put a focus on large-scale ingenuity and innovation.
To claim our leadership role we must:
- Retool a portion of the mission of our national labs to fit comfortably within the goal of commercializing energy independence and other new technologies, and expand the close relationship with Sandia Science and Tech Park to take advantage of technology transfer.
- Better integrate our intellectual infrastructure into public schools and our charter-school system by establishing sustainability and clean-energy programs in our high schools and job-training programs with local universities and colleges, in partnership with the laboratories, to better prepare our children to lead in these fields.
- Dramatically reform how we regulate our energy production and distribution in New Mexico by providing incentives for producing clean energy through the tax code as well as streamlining the processes for awarding public grants and loans.
- Engage private investors to ensure that innovation and creativity in clean-energy technology development does not subside as funding from the stimulus package and other tax-based incentives expire.
- Emulate in practice the technologies we strive to implement and attract through best practices in governmental activity by integrating sustainability goals into the procurement process, requiring that all new vehicle purchases meet strict environmental standards and putting our money where our mouth is by retrofitting public buildings with energy and water saving systems.
- Expand and promote Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs for commercial and residential buildings. By spreading out the up-front costs of retrofitting existing structures to use energy more efficiently, and ensuring that current and future property owners are treated fairly, PACE is an important tool as we expand energy saving systems at the local level. PACE allows homeowners and businesses to take control of their own energy use and be proactive in contributing to the creation of local clean-energy jobs.
- Increase investments in modernizing our electricity grids with a focus on smart-grid and micro-grid technology to improve efficiency, reliability and security in transmission and distribution of power through targeted loans and grants centered around renewables. As with similar clean-energy investments made through the Recovery Act, we must engage private investors to continue the funding streams as those incentives expire.
- Work with our national laboratories and universities to support the development of “Green Grid,” a smart network that will allow renewable energy and energy efficiency to play larger roles on our electrical grid. In addition to commercialization of renewable technology, the decentralization of a green grid allows greater access to the market, which stimulates innovation and creates jobs quickly during initial construction. For my efforts as mayor promoting smart grids, the Association of Energy Engineers named me the national renewable energy innovator of the year.
- Support innovation in the development of low-cost, high-efficiency biofuel technologies. Central New Mexico already has companies on the ground working in this field, including Incitor, a local startup that has created a process to economically convert virtually any biomass into gasoline, jet fuel or diesel. That’s exactly the kind of advanced, forward-looking thinking that is going to propel New Mexico’s clean energy economy.
- Recognize the importance of natural gas as an essential bridge fuel to a renewable energy future and a huge opportunity for New Mexico to create good-paying jobs. I stand with the president in his desire to harness the energy that lies both beneath us and above us. But I want to be clear. I am opposed to drilling or energy exploitation on Otero Mesa. We can access ample deposits of natural gas elsewhere without harming our pristine natural environment.
- Finally, we must respect our natural environment – sustainable economic development is not an enemy of the environment; rather, it is an indispensable ally.
The vision and the will
I stand with President Obama on the plans he articulated for energy during his State of the Union Address. Under his plan, the Department of Defense will acquire enough clean energy to power 1/4 million homes a year and allow non-threatened public lands to be developed for clean energy to power 3 million homes.
It has been said that all energy is a calculated risk – and the president is right when he says we shouldn’t reject any available energy strategy without first understanding its benefits and risks. Los Alamos National Laboratories is one of the leaders in battery technology that can move us toward energy independence.
And we shouldn’t leave out the tremendous amount of expertise that New Mexico possesses on nuclear power. I don’t know if it will be the final answer, but I do know that it is carbon-neutral and that countries like France with very limited natural-energy resources have been energy independent for decades.
Along with natural gas and nuclear energy, the potential applications of geothermal power and associated technologies should be fully explored as we now have the ability to map, measure and tap this emerging energy source.
New Mexico can be a global leader in energy innovation. We have the assets, but have historically lacked the vision and the will. I intend to be a congressman who works tirelessly to address the short-term challenges we confront as a nation but always within the context of the long-term goal of world-class jobs in my hometown and the First Congressional District.
Why we can succeed
Throughout my career, when I set out to accomplish something on behalf of New Mexican families, I got the results they needed. I am the only candidate in this race who has actually helped create meaningful green jobs in this district. I worked tirelessly to bring innovative solar companies like Schott Solar to Albuquerque, expand Emcore and K-Tech’s local operations and attract the film industry with Albuquerque Studios. Plainly, I am the best-prepared candidate to lead in our clean-energy economy.
One of the best examples of combining our district’s unique resources to benefit the greater community is the Sandia Science and Technology Park (SS&TP). In helping to create what has become a sought-after destination for companies, scientists and researchers involved in advancing new technologies, we envisioned a place where our region’s economy will grow alongside the National Labs and Kirtland Air Force Base to take advantage of technologies transferred from the public to private sectors.
Having watched for years as nascent technologies were developed at Sandia National Lab and then exported for production and commercialization elsewhere, the whole purpose of SS&TP was to capture those New Mexico-based ideas in a great public-private partnership and turn them into great jobs right here. Today SS&TP boasts 33 companies with over 2,200 employees. Average salaries are $71,000, compared to $39,000 in the greater Albuquerque area.
These are great jobs for our local economy, and we must prepare our children to take advantage of these well-paying, green-collar jobs in our own backyard.
I firmly believe that changing New Mexico’s economy starts in our schools. As mayor, I worked with the Albuquerque Public Schools to create the Green Hour, a program that allowed students to get real, hands on experience at the city to better understand how their instruction in biology, chemistry and other sciences actually makes a real difference. We can’t grow a world-class economy unless our kids understand our changing role in relationship to nature and the environment.
I’ve been honored to serve as national co-chair of the USGBC Green Schools Advisory Committee, where our goal is to green every school in the nation within a generation. It’s an ambitious goal, but absolutely attainable. Our report presented in Sundance provided a detailed blueprint that local officials and school districts can use to develop their own green-schools initiative. In developing sustainable learning environments, we are creating healthy platforms from which our children can grow and progress.
Today, the Albuquerque Institute of Math and Science at UNM, which I founded, is the leading public high school in New Mexico in math, science and reading, and all graduates have gone on to college. There will be no world-class green economy for our kids if they don’t have the analytical skills to compete within it.
We also made incredible progress at the city level in terms of recycling and emissions reduction. At my direction, Albuquerque vastly expanded recycling programs to bring our city in line with other initiatives around the country and brought Grow Stone to Albuquerque – one of the nation’s most unique glass-recycling programs that turns glass into water retention pumice-like stones for plants and agriculture. We also created Rapid Ride, which revolutionized public transportation in the city. Rapid Ride buses use a diesel-electric hybrid engine that has an extremely low level of emissions while providing power and improved gas mileage. When I left office, Albuquerque’s fleet was ranked the 4th greenest fleet in the country, and our mass transit system was using 100 percent renewable fuels.
Proud of the steps we took
I’m proud of the steps my administration took toward combating climate change, protecting our environment and building infrastructure in a more sustainable manner.
For our efforts, Albuquerque was recognized as the best city in America for jobs or a career (Forbes Magazine), the most sustainable large city in America (Seimens Foundation) and the best city in America addressing climate change (EPA). We also received the World Leadership Award for water utility and conservation (World Leadership Forum) and earned first place in the Mayors Climate Protection Award (U.S. Conference of Mayors).
Chávez, a Democrat, is a candidate for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District seat in the U.S. House.