WASHINGTON – While some Republicans question the value of federal investment in clean energy, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Martin Heinrich proudly touts his commitment to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.
Heinrich, currently New Mexico’s U.S. House member from the 1st Congressional District, has supported federal tax breaks and loan guarantees for companies developing clean energy during his first two terms in Congress. He told the Journal he would continue to push for federal support of clean energy initiatives if elected to the Senate.
“Our energy focus as a country should be about moving more and more toward domestic sources and cleaner and cleaner sources over time,” Heinrich said. “Any incentives should support those things.”
Heinrich argued that federal tax breaks for oil and gas companies have outlived their usefulness.
“We still have enormous subsidies to the big oil companies, and I don’t see those producing any results,” Heinrich said. “Those are highly profitable companies that have known how to produce their product for 100 years. In this economic climate, we can’t afford that.”
Heinrich said the failure of Solyndra, the California solar panel manufacturer that went bankrupt after receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee, was a natural result of developing a fledgling industry.
“There are going to be companies that go out of business,” Heinrich said. “The reason for that is that the price (of silicon made to manufacture solar panels) is coming down, which means the policy is working. As that cost curve is headed down, some businesses will not be able to compete anymore and there will be a shakeout in the industry. ”
Heinrich said he would support the extension of the wind and solar tax credits because it could be good for New Mexico, especially as a planned transmission line from New Mexico to Arizona and California comes online.
“This could be putting people to work both in terms of the construction of the transmission line but also in terms of the wind leases we have in eastern New Mexico,” Heinrich said. “I’ve been focused on making sure we move forward quickly on responsible transmission so we can create those jobs.”
Heinrich has opposed the proposed extension of the Keystone XL petroleum pipeline from Canada to the U.S. – a project many Republicans contend would create thousands of jobs.
“There is not one New Mexico job tied to that effort,” Heinrich said. “There is enormous opportunity in natural gas, wind generation and solar right here.”
Heinrich voted against expanded oil and gas drilling leases in the Gulf in 2011, but this year voted in support of expanded offshore drilling if certain environmental restrictions are met. That bill, proposed by President Barack Obama, failed because of opposition from House Republicans.
The two-term congressman told the Journal that “coal and tar sands are the fuels of the past.”
Currently, 41 percent of the electricity generated by Public Service Company of New Mexico, New Mexico’s largest power provider, is derived from coal. Natural gas, which produces 22 percent of PNM’s electricity, generates significantly lower emissions than coal.
Heinrich said natural gas – with New Mexico producing about 10 percent of the nation’s supply – can serve as a “bridge” to a future when renewables produce a more significant portion of American’s energy supply.
Heinrich said he supports the safe use of nuclear power but doesn’t think the industry needs more federal subsidies or loan guarantees.
Heinrich said New Mexico could be an example for the nation on the controversial issue of fracking – or injecting water into the ground to capture natural gas caught between crevices in rocks.
“We have not experienced the water pollution that has occurred in some (other places) but I think that is a lesson that you need oversight and you need to make sure it’s done responsibly and safely,” he said. “Proper regulation is important.”
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal