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DC Follows NM Lead on Clean Cars, Other 'Green' Policies

May 26, 2009

Albuquerque - The federal government appears to be following the lead of New Mexico and other states on new fuel efficiency standards. Now, it seems even more 'green' energy policies from the Land of Enchantment could be adopted nationally as well.

New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman chairs the Senate Energy Committee, which has been working on a bill that includes a national renewable energy standard. It would require utilities to generate 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar.

New Mexico was among the first states to pass its own renewable energy standards. Ken Hughes, conservation chair for the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, points out that the state has already gone a step further by creating a renewable energy transmission authority.

"I think you'll see a lot more large power lines that can take power from wind farms in the eastern plains, concentrated solar plants throughout the state, and move it to where people need it - and that's another thing we're certainly in the lead on."

According to Hughes, New Mexico is also the first state to implement a solar improvement district to make it easier to afford and finance renewable energy.

"You have a lien on your property for solar panels on your roof or a wind machine in the backyard, that's paid off on property tax over 20 years. It's a way to take care of that up-front cost."

The federal renewable energy standard is part of a broader energy bill now in Congress. Last week, it survived an attempt to remove it from the bill in committee by a 13-9 vote.

New Mexico adopted a ten percent renewable energy standard in 2004; it was increased to 20 percent in 2007. Critics of such policies worry about the costs to industry and consumers, but Hughes and other supporters say there are ways to offset those costs. They add that New Mexico has already seen job growth from its renewable energy policies, including the opening of a first-of-its-kind solar plant outside Albuquerque.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM