LC Bulletin: An energy plan for America

June 11, 2010. Retrieved online June 15, 2010 from Gabriel Vasquez, Las Cruces Bulletin

Conference highlights industry’s achievements, challenges

The United States must make drastic improvements to its clean, renewable energy portfolio and it must act fast.

That was the message that dominated the conversation during the second annual Re-Energize America conference, hosted by New Mexico State University June 3 and 4 at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum.

“We’re really looking at bold, conventional solutions for the energy problem in this country,” said panelist Michael Eaves, vice president of technology for Clean Energy Fuels, the largest provider of natural gas for transportation in North America. “We’re looking at the reverse transfer of wealth from overseas to our economy, at our resources vs. theirs, and at our people and our jobs.”

Eaves was just one of several speakers who touched on the threat of increasing international competition in the renewable energy sector and the need to secure America from dependency on foreign oil sources, especially those in unfriendly nations.

“I have told people in Las Cruces, Hobbs, Roswell and all across southern New Mexico that technology such as wind, solar and biofuels were not only good for the environment, but they would also create jobs for our communities and bolster our national security,” said U.S. Rep. Harry Teague, a lifelong oilman who ran on a campaign platform in 2007 focused on energy independence and security.

Teague again was the honorary chair for the conference, which was co-chaired this year by NMSU President Barbara Couture. For the second year, the conference brought together leaders in policy, education, industry and science to discuss a short-term plan for long-term energy independence.

Speakers and panelists this year included Jim Ford, vice president of federal government affairs for ConocoPhillips; Jon Goldstein,secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department; Arun Bose, program manager for the National Energy Technology Laboratory; Jose Olivares, biofuels program manager for Las Alamos National Laboratory (LANL); Fred Mondragon, cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department; Marcilynn Burke, deputy director of programs and policy for the Bureau of Land Management; and Jim Conca, senior scientist for the Institute for Energy and the Environment at NMSU.

Topics discussed included creating a national plan for new energy jobs, creating jobs through investments in energy efficiency, the technology beyond energy independence, creating new energy entrepreneurs on private lands, new jobs in nuclear energy and the role of oil and gas in the energy independence transitional period.

The conference was broken up into six sessions with several keynote speakers delivering remarks over the two days.

David Hadley of the Technology Transfer Division of LANL opened the conference with discussion of how to create a national plan for creating new energy jobs. Hadley, along with panelists Terry Brunner of the USDA Rural Development Department, Tim Zenk of Sapphire Energy and Rusell Schmit of CleanSwitch, agreed that public policy, specifically the creation and continuation of energy-related tax incentives, must be implemented in haste to spur small businesses and entrepreneurs to create new jobs in the industry.

Robert Czerniak, associate dean of the NMSU College of Arts and Sciences, moderated the discussion of creating jobs through investments in energy efficiency.

“Energy efficiency is not sexy for most people, not like all the new energy technologies out there,” said panelist and state Sen. Steve Fischmann. “But when you step back and look at the policy, of all the new technologies, the least expensive, in terms of providing new energy resources, is energy efficiency.”

Fischmann, who represents District 37 in the New Mexico Senate, has long been an advocate of energy efficiency, renewable energy and lower fuel costs, serving as chair of the Southwest Energy Alliance and on the board for the Southwest Environmental Center and the Coalition for Clean and Affordable Energy.

He said it doesn’t take government policy or a government-sponsored program to start securing America’s energy future.

“Every time we save, we’re making energy cheaper,” he said. “Energy efficiency is the most powerful tool for our energy security and it’s not only the cheapest, it’s also the best for our environment.”

By putting more money in people’s pockets from utility bill savings, Fischmann said, it would spur the creation of new jobs from increased consumer spending.

Leaders from the state and nation’s scientific communities also discussed the latest in alternative-energy technology, giving conference attendees the latest information on the development, industry integration and commercialization of green tech.

…“We need more jobs in oil and gas. We need more jobs period,” said Jim Peach, an economics professor at NMSU who led a study to evaluate the economic impact of the oil and gas industry in the state. “Let me assure you that oil and gas production is positively associated with the local level in income, employment and population growth.”

The conference was organized by NMSU’s Institute for Energy and the Environment and sponsored by ConocoPhillips, Lockheed Martin, LANL, Sandia National Laboratories, Sapphire Energy and the Carlsbad Department of Development.

Read the Las Cruces Bulletin article.

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