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State Takes Up Carbon Cap Today

December 6, 2010

SANTA FE, N.M. - They say it will create more jobs and training opportunities in New Mexico. This morning the state Environmental Improvement Board is set to consider a proposal to cap and begin reducing climate-change pollution, and the plan's supporters have been busy making their case.

Andrew Feldman is a Las Vegas, N.M., city councilor and academic director of the Department of Science, Math and Engineering Technology at Luna Community College. He says the cap will help the state shift to more clean energy, spur innovation and create jobs for New Mexicans - jobs for which his department is already training people.

"They're learning to install solar, thermal and photovoltaics, and how to work on wind turbines. We're also training them in hydro, geothermal, biomass and biofuel from algae production. We're going at it in a number of different ways."

The plan, proposed by the group New Energy Economy, has moved forward despite legal challenges, which could continue even if it is approved by the board this week. The plan calls for major emitters of greenhouse gases in the state to cap their carbon dioxide emissions, and then begin reducing those amounts by 3 percent per year.

Critics argue the plan could mean higher energy prices and drive some companies to locate elsewhere, but Feldman says more clean energy creates more local jobs that cannot be outsourced.

"The growth in clean energy will diversify our economy, which we need. We need a more stable and self-sustaining local economy, but in the end what we'll really have is more prosperity for all New Mexicans."

Faren Dancer is chair of the Santa Fe Green Building Council. He says that despite all the pessimism about the job market, he has plenty of optimistic conversations with people about what are called "green-collar jobs."

"More and more young people are understanding that renewable energy and sustainable building practices are the name of the future, and a lot of people are lining up to get this type of training."

Last month, the state approved a separate plan from the Environment Department to join a regional cap-and-trade program, which some consider an indication that the board members may support the plan before them today.

A summary of the plan is at http://newenergyeconomy.org, and more information is available at www.nmenv.state.nm.us.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM