Thursday, October 20, 2011

Congressman Ben Ray Luján Hosts 50+ Stakeholders for Innovation Workforce Development Summit

BenRayLujanCongressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third Congressional District hosted an Innovation Workforce Development Summit today to bring together key industry and economic development partners to address the future science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career pipeline.  The summit focused on identifying industry workforce needs, improving skills-based workforce training, and increasing job growth in New Mexico.

The Innovation Workforce Development Summit, held at the Santa Fe Convention Center, brought together more than 50 stakeholders to collaborate on STEM workforce development.

“Over the last decade, the STEM workforce has comprised a significant component of New Mexico’s economy thanks to the leadership of the many stakeholders who have collaborated on workforce development and outreach,” Congressman Luján said. “Strengthening and growing the STEM workforce is integral to spurring economic growth in New Mexico. As home to national labs, an Air Force lab, and research universities, the Land of Enchantment is the land of opportunity when it comes to innovation. But to fully grow New Mexico as an innovation hub, we must continue to develop our STEM workforce pipeline," Luján continued.  

"The STEM industry in New Mexico is only as sustainable as its workforce, and we must prepare our workers for the jobs of tomorrow. Especially during this difficult economic time, it is critical that we harness the efforts of leaders in the STEM field, amplifying their work to prepare and train a qualified STEM workforce," Lujan added.

Jami Grindatto, Chairman of the Board of Innovate+Eduate and Intel’s Corporate Affairs Director for the Southwest region said: “This summit was a successful collaboration of thought leaders creating a strategy for accelerating New Mexico’s economy. Addressing the future of the New Mexico workforce and the gaps that currently exist is a critical first step to regaining our economic competitiveness as a state.  We thank Congressman Luján for his leadership to bring this summit together.”

Kathy Keith, Executive Director of the Regional Development Corporation added: “Employers in Northern New Mexico will be expanding and hiring over the next decade.  We must ensure that New Mexicans have the right training to be hired.  Congressman Luján's leadership in making sure we are preparing students for these jobs is vitally important.”

Photo by M.E. Broderick.

October 20, 2011 at 08:07 PM in Jobs, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Guest Blog: Flawed Debt Ceiling Discussion Points to Draconian Results

This is a guest blog by Dr. William Stroud of Alamogordo, New Mexico. He was born in Arkansasas and was a United Methodist Clergyman in the USA and in Europe, as well as a college professor. He says he has been a Democrat for so many years that he cannot count them, turning up at the polls when his mother was a poll worker.

He was active in civil rights in Georgia, and was a member of the conference that sent a group of loyal democrats to Chicago to challenge the elected party leaders. He was a delegate to the Arkansas Democratic Convention. He says he wants to help give a voice to the people of New Mexico.

The contemporary political climate includes a strong measure of anti-intellectualism. The unwillingness to listen to the best scientific minds about several issues is dangerous for our future as a nation. We cannot turn our attention to discussing certain things as a part of the “belief” system, discussing only how that system measures up with other beliefs that we hold to be true. We cannot measure the testimony of a scientist in the same way that we measure the testimony of a theologian, because more is directly at stake here.

Freedom of religion allows us to balance one set of premises against another one and say, for example, “this belief fits me better than some other belief does.” While we are free to believe in our nation, the overwhelming evidence from science must be treated differently.

The testimony of economists across the spectrum say that the best and most trustworthy observations in regard to the discussion of the debt ceiling point to draconian results if the right answers are not offered. Default on our obligations might well trigger a depression. That depression will not have the safety net of the recession which began with the two unfunded wars and the unfunded extension of Medicare.

While we do not know what will happen, economists suggest that a default on the obligations of the country will include a termination of, among other things, Social Security payments, military pensions, military pay, Medicare reimbursements, pay for the troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq, among many programs. Even raising doubts about whether we will meet our obligations damages our credibility in the world as our credit scores as a nation are degraded.

The accumulation of evidence on the part of economists of all persuasions, and even among a growing number of CEOs, is that we cannot afford a loss of our ability to borrow. The issue of raising the debt ceiling is not a luxury we can afford, and must be separated now from the discussion of cutting spending.

Spending cuts must come, but they must not come at the expense of veterans, soldiers, families of soldiers, Social Security recipients, Medicare and Tri-Care recipients. After the debt ceiling is secured, we can deal with those issues. Given the anti-intellectual climate of our times, we must be very careful about some things, and understand that the evidence in the case of the environment, and in the case of the economy requires serious and immediate action. 

Ellen Wedum of Alamogordo reminds me that the extension of our debt ceiling has always been more of a formality, and that spending has increased in every administration since the Reagan days. Only at the end of the Clinton administration was there a surplus, which quickly disappeared after he left office, with the advent of two wars and Part D Medicare.

This is a guest blog by Dr. William Stroud. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

July 12, 2011 at 11:58 AM in Economy, Populism, Finance, Investments, Government, Guest Blogger, Science | Permalink | Comments (6)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Guest Blog: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

6a00d834519ed469e20147e36b1518970b-800wi This is a guest blog by Stuart Heady, a freelance writer and political activist who lives in Albuquerque..

PBS ran a two-hour special structured around Lester Brown as he did a tour of lectures and visits to heads of state around the world. Entitled "Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization," the video is available without charge on PBS online.

Brown founded the Worldwatch Institute, a global think tank that looks at trends from food security to carbon emissions. It is nearly fifty years since he started a tomato farm that was very successful, graduated from college and visited farms in India.

At seventy six, you'd think he could retire in comfort. But the program opens as he flies from Washington, D.C. to Beijing, where he met with the country's leaders and gave a public talk. On the way there, from 35,000 feet, he observed cracks in the polar ice indicating the status of melting. He connects that with the glacial melting in the Himalayan plateau, which distributes water though much of Asia. Billions will be affected as rivers like the Bramaputra, the Indus, the Ganges and the Mekong begin to have a reduced water supply.

This is a wake up call for the citizens of New Mexico, as well as anywhere else on the planet.

The essence of his message is that the world community is in a pressing need of achieving an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. The current global agreement is for a 20% reduction by 2060. The documentary reviewed the very dramatic urgency with which FDR changed American industrial manufacturing in a matter of months into wartime production, in 1942. This is the kind of effort that is need on greenhouse gases.

On the dire end of the spectrum, Brown talks about the rise of reactionary and destabilizing forces throughout the world, and ponders the problem of food shortages that might very well lead to intensifying internal political strife and to many more failed states. He asks the question, "How many failed states would it take for civilization itself to fail?"

He proposes that we must take the initiative and get ahead of the problem before we find out.

On the positive end, it looks like we could mobilize in such a way that we bring about a future that actually is more liveable and better in a lot of ways through pressing ahead with a green  economy approach. Reducing carbon emissions as the central, overarching goal, investing in renewal energy in various forms and getting away from coal and nuclear and oil energy is the solution.

Food production is implicated. For the first time, he feels that there could be a question as to whether there really is enough food to feed a growing human population beyond a certain point. Thus, another big goal would be to eliminate world poverty and address the economics that really produce conditions that keep people trapped in it. Family planning is working in Bangladesh, apparently, which is giving rise to greater prosperity there.

In New Mexico, there are wind farms and there is an investment in green energy. That is a start and a certain former governor can be thanked for having the vision to see the importance of promoting this.

The oil and gas industries have long been convinced that investing in a long-term campaign to keep the waters muddied about the big picture and the science involved in the various areas linked to global warming is a good strategy. It is for that reason that the US is behind China and other countries in developing alternative technologies.

No longer can the public afford to entertain or tolerate this PR attack on long-term sanity. We all need to adopt the ability to think on a big scale, consider how all the issues are interrelated globally and connect to regional and local ones.

This has to come from informed and responsible citizenship, and we need to ensure that our elected representatives at all levels have their heads on straight. Determination to succeed cannot any longer depend on convincing those for whom there will never be enough evidence.

This is a guest blog by Stuart Heady. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

April 1, 2011 at 04:14 PM in Climate, Energy, Environment, Green Economy, Guest Blogger, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Secretive Climate Change Denier Harrison Schmitt Forced to Withdraw as NM Energy Sec. Nominee

HarrisonSchmitt
Harrison Schmitt (c) at 2/3 Senate Finance Committee hearing

What a fiasco. Early this evening, Republican Governor Susana Martinez was forced to give up one of her key cabinet nominations after he refused to submit to a background check required of all cabinet nominees by the New Mexico Senate.

LindaLopezCr Controversial climate change denier, former astronaut and congressman, Harrison Schmitt -- who has equated environmentalists with "communists" -- had been tapped to serve as Martinez's Secretary of New Mexico's Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD). He withdrew his name from consideration after Senate Rules Committee Chair Linda Lopez (right) announced her opposition to his confirmation earlier today saying, "At this time, Mr. Schmitt’s refusal to comply with the background check process has left me with no choice but to oppose his confirmation."

Martinez issued the following statement in response to the snafu:

“Senator Schmitt is a former NASA astronaut who underwent a complete background check by the Department of Public Safety as part of his nomination process.

“Senator Schmitt was willing to allow a private investigator access to his personal information, but he was not willing to waive that investigator’s liability for any improper actions or use of that information. While one can understand Senator Schmitt’s concerns, complying with the Legislature’s request is necessary to restore public confidence in state government. That’s why I am requiring all of my cabinet secretary designees to comply with that request and this has led to Senator Schmitt withdrawing his nomination. 

“I wish Senator Schmitt the best in his future endeavors and I will work swiftly to find a qualified replacement to lead New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.”

SMartinezCr According to reporter Steve Terrell, Gov. Martinez responded to a question about this afternoon's revelation that Schmitt had requested a meeting with Sen. Linda Lopez and informed her he wouldn't comply with the required background check by saying she'd just found out about it a few minutes beforehand. The meeting between Schmitt and Lopez had taken place three days earlier, but Schmitt evidently had never mentioned his refusal to comply to the governor. Or else Martinez knew about it but figured he could get away with it, Schmitt being a famous former moonwalker and all. No dice.

You'd think Gov. Martinez and Schmitt would have worked all this out weeks ago, when Schmitt was first named as the EMNRD Secretary-designee. Very telling as to the inexperience and disorganization of Susana and her staffers in the new administration. This will definitely be considered as a public pratfall marking a less than professional start in Martinez's first statewide office.

Sen. Lopez described the background check as an "extensive review that includes a search for any prior criminal convictions and of the Federal Civil Court Records; verification of appointees’ assertions related to financial circumstances or improprieties such as bankruptcies, tax liens, and outstanding loans; and a review of disclosure statements related to potential conflicts of interest and ownership in business entities." Who knows what Schmitt is so intent on hiding.

HarrisonSchmitt2Cr
Schmitt at SFC

Schmitt had already attended one legislative hearing as EMNRD Secretary-designee -- a preliminary budget discussion before the Senate Finance Committee on February 3rd. Oddly enough given Gov. Martinez's insistence on making further cuts to state government rather than raising revenues, Schmitt expressed concerns at the hearing that his department appeared to be understaffed. No kidding.

DPNM Chair Javier Gonzales had this to say about Martinez's latest misstep: “From Harrison Schmitt refusing to submit to a basic background check and withdrawing his nomination to the increasing criticism of her handling of a gas crisis that left thousands of people in the cold, New Mexicans are starting to wonder just what kind of leadership they’re getting with this new governor."

You might say.

LindaLopezBoots
Sen. Linda Lopez wears boots:
These boots are made for walkin' and one of these days ...

All photos by M.E. Broderick.

February 10, 2011 at 08:22 PM in Democratic Party, Energy, Linda Lopez, NM Legislature 2011, Science, Susana Martinez, Transparency | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Susana Martinez Picks Harrison Schmitt, Climate Change Denier, to Head NM Energy Dept.

Schmitt110 In yet another move to cleanse New Mexico of any and all environmental regulations, green, clean, renewable energy initiatives and efforts to mitigate the growing impact of damaging climate change, GOP Gov. Susana Martinez today named a climate change denier to head New Mexico's Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. She's cleansing so her big donors can dirty things up with abandon in the state, as never before.

Martinez has chosen former astronaut and senator from New Mexico, Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, aged 75, as a prominent partner in her planned environmental retreat back to the 1950s. Schmitt said as much, right out loud, at today's announcement of his nomination:

I think New Mexico's been ill-served in the past few years. It's very clear that energy-related jobs have been migrating away from the state of New Mexico, and it's time to make sure, in a rational way, that those jobs come back.

Rational. Right. According to the "rational" dictates of Martinez's fossil-fuel energy donors to make more money regardless of what they destroy in the process. Here's an article about some of Schmitt's nefarious connections to oil company-funded groups that work to undermine genuine climate science. By the way, Schmitt has never published a peer-reviewed paper on the topic of climate change. Get the picture?

Environmental Regulation Attack Squad
At today's press conference in Santa Fe, Martinez jumped right into the fray and repeated her attack on the so-called "pit rule," suggesting it would be next up on the environmental regulation chopping block and "will certainly be one of his [Schmitt's] responsibilities immediately."

Schmitt agreed:

This whole regulatory review is something that I think is going to go on throughout the country. The pit rule is just one that has to be looked at to see whether it's really accomplishing anything relative to what its intent was, and whether that intent really was a valid intent to begin with.

Notice Schmitt links the attack on environmental regulations here with the right wing's ferocious attack on anything that protects the environment that's ongoing in many other states and in the nation's capitol. In other words, the Martinez administration is just one cog in the national right-wing corporatist machine that's seeking to undermine all the environmental and energy progress we've made in recent years. All for one and one for all -- and fossil-fuel energy polluters have purchased a ton of huge, comfortable seats at the table both here and in Washington.

Schmitt also clearly telegraphed his intent to crush the state's efforts to develop renewables and green jobs when he was asked a question today about a statewide renewable enrgy transmission authority (RETA):

I have been involved in these so-called renewable resources for many, many years. You have to realize that most of these energy sources today, almost without exception, could not survive in a real economic environment. They either require taxpayer subsidies or ... increased fees.

Schmitt said wind and solor are examples of that. What he neglected to admit is that the fossil fuel industries -- including gas, oil and coal -- receive massive subsidies that not only hold prices down (when it's convenient) but often result in record-breaking profits for dirty energy producers. Schmitt obviously knows that, but like most political hacks who are deep in the pocket of irresponsible energy producers, he refuses to admit it publicly.

Schmitt: Geologist Against Climate Science
By the way, Schmitt is a geologist by education, getting his training so long ago that renewable energy wasn't even on the radar. So it's natural that he's attached to the old-fashioned habit of digging in the earth for energy -- damn the consequences -- as well as in the moon, where he once walked. He believes the moon's natural resources should be exploited by private industry, not explored for public benefit.

Showing his vehement climate-change-denier loyalties, Schmitt quit his post at the Planetary Society -- a nonprofit dedicated to space exploration -- in November 2008 over a number of policy differences, including the Society's "accelerating research into global climate change through more comprehensive Earth observations." In his resignation letter, Schmitt claimed that the "global warming scare is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision-making."

Commenting on the global warming debate, Schmitt said, "It's one of the few times you've seen a sizable portion of scientists who ought to be objective take a political position and it's coloring their objectivity." Here he is on Fox Business in December 2009 bagging the concept of man-made climate change, as well as the need to restrict greenhouse gases and implement cap and trade.

In the interview, he denies there is a "scientific consensus" on climate change, and says "the CO2 scare is a red herring." He states that the "global warming scare is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision-making," and that scientists who might otherwise challenge prevailing views on climate change dare not do so for fear of losing funding.

Dem Party Responds
Commenting on Susana's pick for EMNRD Secretary, DPNM Executive Director Scott Forrestor today said, “Martinez promised bold change and she’s bringing it in the form of an appointee at odds with the basic tenets of science and reason. This appointment is a clear signal to Martinez’s big-oil backers that the days of basic protections for New Mexicans’ air and drinking water are over.”

“Martinez has never said one word about how important it is to have clean air and water in our beautiful state and instead has spent her short time in office ripping down basic environmental protections for our citizens,” Forrester continued. “These moves are either straight payback for her contributors or a blatant disregard for the importance of clean air and water -- not only for the lives of New Mexicans, but for future economic development.”

Schmitt on the Record
On many occasions, Schmitt has scoffed at decades of sound scientific evidence and a mountain of research that validated the human causes of global climate change. Some additional examples:

“I don’t think the human effect is significant compared to the natural effect,” said Schmitt [Former astronaut Harrison Schmitt calls global warming a 'political tool', by Tony Hake, 2/16/09]

“Contrary to categorical statements by many politicians and unfortunately some scientists, including some colleagues of mine, the science of climate change and its causes is not settled - at least not to this geologist,” said Shimitt [Astronaut Harrison Schmitt: Climate change alarmists 'intentionally mislead', by Tony Hake, 3/1/09]

Schmitt said, “No definitive evidence therefore exists to support the hypothesis that the industrial revolution has driven carbon dioxide levels up more rapidly than otherwise expected as a response to long term temperature increases.  No evidence likewise exists AGAINST the conclusion that variations in solar heating remain the overwhelming dominate driver of climate change and weather.” [Astronaut Harrison Schmitt: Climate change alarmists 'intentionally mislead', by Tony Hake, 3/1/09]

Here's local reporter Peter St. Cyr interviewing Schmitt back in December 2009 on KNME's New Mexico In Focus on a variety of topics. In addition to criticizing New Mexico's public spaceport initiative, Schmitt discusses his contention that the vast majority of climate scientists are wrong about the causes of accelerating global warming and climate change (starting at 7:09 minutes):

Blue_marble Ironically, given his long-time battle against the findings of peer-reviewed, professional climate science and any efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, Schmitt claims that he took the iconic photo of the earth from space that has become known as "The Blue Marble." NASA, on the other hand, says only that the photo was taken by one of the Apollo 17 crew back in 1972. The photo has long been used to illustrate the fact that all of us share a fragile and unique home that's vulnerable to the damaging forces of human neglect, greed and thoughtlessness. Like the kind that's defended by Harrison Schmitt, our new Energy Secretary.

January 6, 2011 at 05:25 PM in Climate, Energy, Environment, Science, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (15)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

12/9: Leading Non-Profits Host Panel Discussion on STEM Education In New Mexico

Citizen Schools of New Mexico and Innovate Educate, two leading nonprofits focused on substantive education reform in New Mexico, announced a top-tier panel discussion on the state of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in New Mexico. The panelists, which include local and national leaders, bring together a group of premiere experts who have a combined experience of over 75 years. Panelists include:

  • Carlos Contreras - U.S. Education Director, Intel
  • Eric Schwarz - CEO and Co-Founder, Citizen Schools
  • Bobbie Gutierrez - Superintendent, Santa Fe Public School
  • Eugene Schmidt - Superintendent, Los Alamos Public Schools

U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a longtime supporter of STEM education, leat his support to the event. “If our students are to succeed in an increasingly competitive world, they must be prepared in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math," said Udall. “I applaud Citizen Schools and Innovate Educate for exposing kids to professionals who are excited about their fields and can demonstrate how their work is important and relevant. The expert panel at this event is proof of the positive things that are happening in New Mexico when it comes to education.”

The event, titled “Pay it Forward for STEM”, will be held on Thursday, December 9, 2010 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at the Rio Chama in Sante Fe, New Mexico. For more information please visit tinyurl.com/STEMinNM or contact Michael Huerta at (202) 550-3503.

December 8, 2010 at 07:11 PM in Education, Events, Science, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guest Blog: Pearce, Barela Treat Science Like a Political Opponent

AlgernonPhoto This is a guest blog by Algernon D'Ammassa, who lives in Luna County, in Deming, New Mexico, and belongs to no political party. He blogs regularly at http://algerblog.blogspot.com.

Can Luna County afford leaders who treat science as if it were a political opponent?

Steve Pearce, running for his old seat in our district, is on the record dismissing global warming as "crap" and claiming that it "cannot be validated." He made these statements on a campaign stop in Artesia to the multimedia news source Politico.

"Only God knows where our climate is going," said first district candidate Jon Barela during a recent radio interview. While it is probably true we cannot know more than God, there are some things we do know; and what we know must be taken seriously.

The looming challenges that climate change presents to New Mexico's agriculture, a billion-dollar industry, include rising water prices and decreased supply, carbon dioxide fertilization that galvanizes weeds and invasive species, reduced crop yields across the southwest, less forage for cattle - and much more. Extreme storms in the American southwest have doubled, and rapid warming trends have affected snowpack melt in measurable ways, as well as the tropical storms which provide New Mexico with much of its yearly precipitation. In the last decade, intensified droughts in New Mexico saw an explosion of bark beetles that have cleared trees by tens of thousands of acres. If we ignore the trends measured by climatologists, all of this will just be a prelude.

Across the hemisphere, the effects of warming and greenhouse gas concentration are affecting ocean flow and sea levels as ancient glaciers melt so quickly we can watch them change color and shrink.

To be fair, there are aspects of this research that are inconclusive and subject to debate. Sometimes there are errors. Errors, in fact, are an important part of the scientific method, as theories and equations are tested and new data are incorporated into the body of research. This does not impeach the basis of science itself.

Pearce continues to make hay out of some unprofessional conduct by a handful of scientists at a single research facility, suggesting this somehow debunks the entire body of climate science and its implications. Some politicians go as far as to claim that global warming is a left-wing conspiracy to destroy the American economy. These theories apparently require no "validation" or evidence. They are also good for harvesting large campaign donations.

Drastic Consequences
While we bicker and dither, catastrophic reactions are already in motion. If developed nations take no action, or waste time denying reality, there will be drastic consequences over the next century. Indeed, our response is already late.

Here in Luna County, we can count on our farmers and ranchers to respond to conditions and adapt as best they can, bringing together their experience and resources. We can all help them, and ourselves, by sending lawmakers to Washington who are not at war with science.

We Deserve Reasoned Debate, Innovative Ideas
We are citizens of the United States. We are the farmers and ranchers of the American west. We are the workers in the cities. We are the parents and children who wonder what will become of our land, streams, and air in the years to come. We are people, not corporations. We deserve a reasoned political debate about the facts that will change our way of life. We deserve competition among well-informed policy makers for the best solutions to rising energy prices, pollution, waste products, and the overlapping effects of climate change.

From the private sector, we deserve innovative ideas from our brightest entrepreneurs and well-capitalized corporations. Many of these resources are being spent to confuse the public and impugn science instead. Inevitably, the implications of global warming will affect business as well. We all deserve better than this.

Demand An Intelligent Conversation
We are speaking of the material conditions that will define our future. Can we stop pretending to be "conservatives" and "liberals" when it comes to our survival? Twisting climate science into a partisan dogfight, when the implications are truly universal, is short-sighted and selfish, even stupid. We do not need to know more than God. We have been granted the sense to look ahead and take reasonable precautions. Accepting reality and helping our community prepare will not happen until people demand an intelligent conversation repeatedly and consistently, backing it up with our votes and our spending habits.

This is a guest blog by Algernon D'Ammassa. It was originally published in the Deming Headlight.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

October 12, 2010 at 09:52 AM in Climate, Environment, Guest Blogger, Jon Barela, NM-01 Congressional Race 2010, NM-02 Congressional Race 2010, Science, Steve Pearce | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, June 05, 2010

BP Oil Spill Stirs New Energy for Innovation at Congressman Teague’s ‘Re-Energize America’ Conference

Group_hug
Rep. Harry Teague and conferees

This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, who is a progressive political activist and a resident of Las Cruces, New Mexico. He IS our Southern NM Bureau.

In the wake of BP’s disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill the Re-Energize America Conference held Thursday and Friday June 3 and 4 at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces took on extra interest and urgency. The Conference included dozens of speakers from both traditional and emerging energy sectors, educators, as well as state and national government officials. The conference was co-hosted by Congressman Harry Teague and New Mexico State University.

While the tenor of the two-day conference was confident and upbeat, most of the speakers expressed an urgency for developing new renewable energy sources. Among the concerns expressed were environmental degradation, economic stagnation and national security. Many felt the United States was falling behind China, Japan, the European Union and India in building its renewable resource industries, and becoming dangerously beholden to foreign oil.

Harry01 Harry02
Congressman Teague

New Mexico’s future also was highlighted at the Conference. Many of the speakers stressed the state's abundant resources, including solar, wind, geothermal, biotech, nuclear as well as oil and gas unmatched by most other states, and New Mexico’s commitment to biofuel. Congressman Teague noted that southern New Mexico was well positioned to become a center for these emerging new technologies and pledged to continue to be a conduit in bringing the best national energy leadership together.

Zannes
Maria Zannes, Southwestern Biofuels Association

An algae-based biofuel startup was among the most talked about new energy projects at the conference. Sapphire Energy is developing a 300-acre site near Columbus, New Mexico that uses the non-potable saline water abundant in the area as a resource to grow what it calls “green crude.” Microsoft founder Bill Gates is among the leading investors in Sapphire, which has also established a new research facility in Las Cruces. Maria Zannes, outreach director of the Southwestern Biofuels Association, said the biofuels industry would eventually generate 60,000 jobs.

ConocoPhillips_Ford
Jim Ford, ConocoPhillips

With the BP spill as a backdrop, much of the Conference focused on fossil fuels. Jim Ford, Vice President for Federal and Government Affairs for ConocoPhillips, a major oil and gas corporation, specifically noted the public concern over the BP spill but urged caution in quickly slapping new regulations on his industry. He also stated that it was his understanding that the current law capping Federal fines was “null and void if the company [BP] was negligent.” He said ConocoPhillips supports enactment of a comprehensive energy policy, but opposed raising taxes and fees. Since ConocoPhillips and other American oil companies must rely on foreign state-run sources of oil, taxes and fees would amount to a “double tax” and increased Federal regulation would only work to “drive jobs out of the United States,” Ford said.

Goldstein
Jon Goldstein, NM Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Dept.

Few of the other speakers agreed with Ford. Spokespeople for New Mexico’s land-based oil and gas industry talked about their lower footprint and expressed more concern with bringing revenue, jobs and market share into New Mexico than with any potential Federal legislation. Directly refuting the ConocoPhillips position, Jon Goldstein, Secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department said New Mexico’s effective regulatory structure had helped the state pursue new jobs and revenue. Among the traditional energy industries, most saw the United States' considerable reserves of natural gas as a cleaner fossil fuel and bridge to new technologies, including Ford of ConocoPhillips.

Generating new jobs was a key issue addressed at the Conference, with an emphasis on creating employment and income in New Mexico. David Blivin, Managing Director of the Cottonwood Technology Fund, claimed that while New Mexico ranks second in scientists and engineers, the lack of venture capital has been problematic in generating permanent high-end jobs for the state.

Not all of the new energy jobs envisioned for New Mexico are aimed at specialists. Jon Goldstein said most to the new green energy jobs are blue collar jobs, many in the home renovation and improvement industries, construction and in agriculture. “These are jobs that stay in New Mexico and can’t be outsourced” Goldstein said.

Improved extraction and new cleaner technologies for traditional extractive industries including oil, gas, coal and uranium were highlighted, along with nuclear and improved wind and solar, but new breakthrough technologies, like Sapphire’s “green crude” stirred the most interest. Bill Simms of Joule Unlimited described his company’s new technology that creates biofuel from only the sun and waste carbon dioxide. Joule is considering New Mexico as the location for its first production facility.

A major concern for both traditional electric and gas industries, as well as newer technologies, was the existing infrastructure and delivery systems. Few saw the United States' infrastructure as adequate to meet new demands for plug-in electric cars and other coming energy needs. The aging electric grid was an important topic of discussion. The Conference also outlined conservation strategies and technologies. “Of all the new technologies, the least expensive is energy efficiency” said New Mexico State Senator Steve Fischmann. Fischmann linked new power plant construction to consumer price increases. “Every time a new plant comes on line, energy companies petition for rate increases,” Fischmann said, “Energy conservation saves dollars and creates jobs.”

Tiered pricing based on high- and low-energy consumption periods and rate decoupling, a novel approach that removes incentives for utility companies to promote high usage to maintain profits, were also outlined at the event.

Rodgers_SecofEnerg
Matt Rogers, Senior Advisor to Secretary of Energy

Matt Rodgers, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, praised the “strong local leadership” in New Mexico. “New Mexico is truly blessed,” Rodgers said, noting New Mexico’s relative strength in energy resources over its western neighbors as well other parts of the country, but urged all of New Mexico’s community, business and educational partners to work together. “We are in a global competition,” he warned, stressing local readiness. He said that the communities with the strongest willingness to work together would have access to the greatest resources. “Spend wisely and with urgency” Rodgers said.

Burke_BLM
Marcilynn Burke, BLM

Marcilynn Burke of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) echoed Rodgers. She estimated that renewable energy projects on BLM-held lands alone could eventually net 250,000 new jobs, and that New Mexico’s renewable resources were among the highest in the nation.

Nmsu_prez_couture
NMSU President Barbara Couture

Educational opportunities were also stressed, and New Mexico State’s President Barbara Couture showcased her institutions energy and engineering programs. Congressman Teague also called for better educational opportunities in New Mexico’s smaller communities.

“The key to a strong economic future in energy in New Mexico is education and broadband,” Teague said. “I’ve worked to bring rural broadband into our classrooms, community colleges and libraries,” the Congressman said, “but we have to do more.” New Mexico’s 2nd CD Congressman is proud to have brought new broadband to rural counties in the southern part of the state through USDA grants, but he stressed his intention to do much more. “New Mexico’s rural communities are particularly hard-pressed by the need for broadband. Unlike the larger communities our small community classrooms have only a few students, but still need to stay connected.” Teague said.

Harry03
Congressman Teague

“I’m an old oil man, and I always will be,” Teague told the Conference, “but I understand the need for diversification.” Congressman Teague particularly expressed his concern for the nation’s reliance on foreign oil from hostile nations. “The Recovery Act, which I supported, is a first step in saying, ‘No more of the same!’” Teague said. Asked what he hoped New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District residents would take home from the conference, Congressman Teague said, “We need energy of all types. It’s not a competition, we need it all!”

All photos by Stephen Jones. To read more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

June 5, 2010 at 10:48 AM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Energy, Environment, Green Economy, Jobs, Las Cruces, National Security, Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Science | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

UNM-Los Alamos Launches Trailblazing Course in Ecological Economics

Fascinating. The University of New Mexico, Los Alamos (UNM-LA), is launching a new course in ecological economics, for the Spring 2010 Semester. The course, Topics: Ecological Economics (GNST 192), will meet Fridays from 11 AM to 12:40 PM from January 22 through March 12 and will be graded “credit/no credit.”

“This is the first course in ecological economics offered in New Mexico,” said instructor Dragomir “Miro” Kovacevich in a statement released by UNM. “Universities such as the University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, Rensselaer Polytech, University of Oregon and the University of Vermont are offering cutting edge study in this emergent multidisciplinary science that investigates the most urgent moral issues of our time and articulates viable public policy responses.”

The course is designed to bring students to the interface of metaphysics, natural philosophy, natural sciences and social sciences, Kovacevich said. “In contrast with the confines of classical and neo-classical economics, ecological economics requires delightful insights into cosmology, physics, moral philosophy and aesthetics, sociology and economics with concurrent thoughtful consideration of relevant aspects of history, political science and law,” he said.

According to Kovacevich, ecological economics focuses on three interdependent goals of sustainable scale, fair distribution and efficient allocation. Such issues cannot be understood from within the framework of any single discipline and require a multidisciplinary approach.

“While traditional economics treats the economy as a self-contained system, ecological economics recognizes that the economy is a sub-system wholly dependent on the global biophysical system that contains and sustains it,” said Kovacevich. “Ecological economics is not a subdiscipline of economics or any other discipline. It is not primarily about how to have or not to have. It is about how to behave or not to behave in order to be and have. It is a holistic proposition of goodness, beauty and cosmic humility.”

A good working knowledge of political science, macroeconomics and microeconomics is helpful but not required, in order to complete the class requirements. Knowledge or prior exposure to moral philosophy and natural philosophy will be very helpful.

Kovacevich received an MBA at Pepperdine University, an MS in Political Science from the University of Zagreb, Croatia and a BA in Economics from the University of Split, Croatia. He is founder and former president of the Santa Fe Solar Circle and co-founder of ViviLux, a renewable energy public advocacy and civic education institution. He has presented and lectured extensively on ecological, environmental and sustainability issues in Minnesota and New Mexico in the last seven years.

Kovacevich played the pivotal role in establishing Solar Energy Research Park and Academy (SERPA) at Northern New Mexico College. Kovacevich wrote Senate Joint Memorial 33 and facilitated its unanimous passage in 2009 NM Legislative Session. This memorial sets the stage for New Mexico’s National Laboratories and the Southwest in general to become the nexus of a national energy strategy for natural security and economic recovery.

Kovacevich also co-produced Venus Transit Authority Radio Show, an ecological economics themed program on KRSN AM 1490, Los Alamos. He is a member of the American Society for Ecological Economics and International Society for Ecological Economics.

To learn more about the course, email Kovacevich at miro@eccoecco.com. To register, or to learn more about UNM-LA, visit www.la.unm.edu or call 662-0332. Spring semester begins January 19, 2010.

January 6, 2010 at 10:38 AM in Economy, Populism, Education, Energy, Environment, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish Hosts Meeting to Explore Small Satellite Tech Development

Lt. Governor Diane Denish today hosted members of the Air Force Research Laboratory and the high technology business community to discuss the potential for developing the small satellite industry in New Mexico.

“We have a unique opportunity to bring a new high-tech industry to our state, which will create the types of 21st Century jobs we need. With the Air Force Research Laboratory, our commitment to invest in spaceport infrastructure, and our skilled and energetic work force, New Mexico is well positioned to become the home of the small satellite industry,” Denish said in a statement released this afternoon. “By bringing together lab researchers, aerospace businesses and state and local economic development representatives, I hope to spur serious discussions that will lead to more high paying jobs here in New Mexico. Together, we must seize the opportunities of the future.”

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in Albuquerque is currently engaged in small satellite development. The AFRL seeks to develop satellites using off the shelf components that can be manufactured and deployed in a one week time period. The smaller units will allow for highly customized satellites and greatly decrease the cost of satellite development.

"Here at the Air Force Research Lab we are proud of our advances in small satellite technology and greatly appreciate Lt. Gov. Denish's invitation to share our work with the business community," said Colonel Bradley Smith, commander of the Phillips Research Site as well as the Director of the Air Force Research Lab’s Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque.

"New trends in the space industry are developing. Small satellite and responsive launch industries are emerging. Because Kirtland Air Force Base is home to the Space Vehicles Directorate of Air Force Research Laboratory, the Operationally Responsive Space Office, as well as the Space Development and Test Wing it has become a center for small satellite innovation. New Mexico’s business community should be aware of unique opportunities this concentration of space-centric entities has created,” Colonel Smith added.

November 10, 2009 at 04:47 PM in Business, Diane Denish, Science | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New UN Science Report Underlines Urgency for Governments to Seal the Climate Deal in Copenhagen

CCC_Cover200

Climate Change Science Compendium 2009, a report released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has enough alarming news about accelerating climate change that even the most dedicated couch potatoes should be stirred into action. With the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen less than 80 days away, we need to pressure the President and members of Congress to get serious and enact a tough and comprehensive energy bill that doesn't cut corners or delay actions until it's too late to counteract the bulk of greenhouse-gas induced climate change.

This week, President Obama gave a speech at the UN Climate Change Summit in New York, which included admonitions about the urgent need for action to combat human-caused climate change. Now the United States needs to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. 

A fairly tame energy bill passed the U.S. House in June. The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee also passed an energy bill in June -- S. 1462, the American Clean Energy Leadership Act -- but it's been on the back burner ever since. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, discussed the bill he sponsored this week with Grist. Click to see the interview. Finally, a comprehensive bill is set to be introduced next week by Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. John Kerry. 

Bottom line: we must convince our government that there's an urgent need for legislation that can make our appearance in Copenhagen meaningful. We must lead, not procrastinate.

Indications of Accelerating Climate Change
According to the Compendium, compiled in association with scientists around the world, the pace and scale of climate change may now be outstripping even the most sobering predictions of the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) -- including in North America and here in the Southwest. An analysis of the very latest, peer-reviewed science indicates that many of predictions at the upper end of the IPCC's forecasts are becoming ever more likely.

Meanwhile the newly emerging science points to some troubling impacts -- originally thought likely to occur in longer-term time horizons -- as already happening or set to happen far sooner than expected.

Important Discoveries
Here's a summary of just some of the disturbing discoveries reported today in the new report:

--Persistent drought crisis conditions for the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, unprecedented loss of sea ice in the Canadian archipelago and seasonal upwellings of acidic seawater off California are all being observed years or even decades ahead of earlier projections.

--Losses from glaciers, ice-sheets and the polar regions appear to be happening faster with the Greenland ice sheet, for example, recently seeing melting some 60 percent higher than the previous record of 1998.

* Some scientists are now warning that sea levels could rise by up to two metres by 2100 and five to ten times that over following centuries.

--There is also growing concern among some scientists that thresholds or tipping points may now be reached in a matter of years or a few decades. These include dramatic changes to the Indian summer monsoon, the Sahara and West Africa monsoon and other factors that affect critical ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest.

--The report also underlines concern by scientists that the planet is now committed to some damaging -- and perhaps irreversible impacts -- as a result of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.

* Losses of tropical and temperate mountain glaciers affecting perhaps 20 percent to 25 percent of the human population in terms of drinking water, irrigation and hydro-power.

* Shifts in the hydrological cycle resulting in the disappearance of regional climates with related losses of ecosystems, species and the spread of drylands northwards and southwards.

Time Running Out
Recent science suggests that it may still be possible to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. However, this will only happen within the time span of the current civilization if there is immediate, cohesive and decisive action to both cut emissions and assist vulnerable countries adapt.

In a foreword to the document, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon -- who this week hosted heads of state in New York -- writes that, “This Climate Change Science Compendium is a wake-up call. The time for hesitation is over. We need the world to realize, once and for all, that the time to act is now and we must work together to address this monumental challenge. This is the moral challenge of our generation.”

The Compendium reviews some 400 major scientific contributions to our understanding of Earth Systems and climate change that have been released through peer-reviewed literature, or from research institutions, over the last three years.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said, “The Compendium can never replace the painstaking rigour of an IPCC process -- a shining example of how the United Nations can provide a path to consensus among the sometimes differing views of more than 190 nations. However, scientific knowledge on climate change and forecasting of the likely impacts has been advancing rapidly since the landmark 2007 IPCC report.”

“This is the most sobering assessment yet of how global warming is already affecting our climate and makes it very clear that we must take action,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director, U.S. Global Warming Campaign, at the Pew Environment Group. “The U.S. Congress, President Obama and other world leaders must act now to reduce the threat of global warming. Doing so will create a new clean energy economy, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and sustain our environment for future generations.”

Key Scientific Findings
Key scientific observations and developments documented since the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 include:

North America:
* Observation and modeling is pointing to an irreversible transition in the southwestern USA and Northern Mexico towards a sustained, drier climate. It may have been under way since 2000. “Dustbowl” conditions are projected to become the norm for the dry season in the region. This change, unprecedented in the instrumental record, is linked to global shifts of rainfall regimes as sub-tropical dry zones move towards the poles.

* Seawater acidic enough to corrode a shell-making carbonate substance called aragonite is already welling up during the summer along the California coast, decades earlier than models predict. It is an indication that oceans are becoming more acidic more quickly than expected, jeopardizing the ability of shellfish and corals to form their external skeletons.

* The average amount of sea ice within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago has decreased by an average of 8.7 per cent each decade since 1979. The melting season has lengthened by seven days per decade, with 2008 witnessing a record 129 days of melting.

* Vegetation surveys of California’s Santa Rosa Mountains between 1977 and 2007 show that dominant plants have on average moved their range 65 metres (213 feet) higher in altitude. Research suggests this has been a response to warming, more variable precipitation and less snow cover, rather than other factors such as air pollution or fire.

The compendium also documents a number of significant recent climate anomalies for North America, including:

* The third-worst fire season and persistent drought in the western and southwestern USA in 2008.

* The worst drought in 70 years in Mexico, in August 2009, affecting about 3.5 million farmers, wiping out some 17 million acres of cropland and leaving 50,000 cows dead.

* The worst wildfire in 30 years in Southern California, in April 2009.

* Alaska’s snowiest winter for 30 years in 2007-8, which also saw Toronto’s third snowiest winter on record.

* Hurricane Gustav in August 2008, the worst storm to hit Cuba in five decades, with recorded gusts of 341 km per hour at one location, the strongest in the country’s history.

Global:
* The growth in carbon dioxide emissions from energy and industry has exceeded even the most fossil-fuel intensive scenario developed by the IPCC in the late 1990s. Global emissions were growing by 1.1 per cent each year from 1990-1999 and this accelerated to 3.5 per cent per year from 2000-2007.

* Growth of the global economy in the early 2000s and an increase in its carbon intensity (emissions per unit of growth), combined with a decrease in the capacity of ecosystems on land and the oceans to act as carbon “sinks”, have led to a rapid increase in the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This has contributed to sooner-than-expected impacts including faster sea level rise, ocean acidification, melting Arctic sea ice, warming of polar land masses, freshening of ocean currents and shifts in the circulation patterns of the oceans and atmosphere.

* The observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations are raising concern among some scientists that warming of between 1.4 and 4.3 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial surface temperatures could occur. This exceeds the range of between 1 and 3 degrees perceived as the threshold for many “tipping points”, including the end of summer Arctic sea ice, and the eventual melting of Himalayan glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet.

* In 2007, summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean shrank to its smallest extent ever, 24 per cent less than the previous record in 2005, and 34 per cent less than the average minimum extent in the period 1970-2000. In 2008, the minimum ice extent was 9 per cent greater than in 2007, but still the second lowest on record.

* Until the summer of 2007, most models projected an ice-free September for the Arctic Ocean towards the end of the current century. Reconsideration based on current trends has led to speculation that this could occur as soon as 2030.

* Recent findings show that warming extends well to the south of the Antarctic Peninsula, to cover most of West Antarctica, an area of warming much larger than previously reported.

* The hole in the ozone layer has had a cooling effect on Antarctica, and is partly responsible for masking expected warming on the continent. Recovery of stratospheric ozone, thanks to the phasing out of ozone-depleting substances, is projected to increase Antarctic temperatures in coming decades.

* Recent estimates of the combined impact of melting land-ice and thermal expansion of the oceans suggest a plausible average sea level rise of between 0.8 and 2.0 metres above the 1990 level by 2100. This compares with a projected rise of between 18 and 59 centimetres in the last IPCC report, which did not include an estimate of large-scale changes in ice-melt rates, due to lack of consensus.

* Under the IPCC scenario that most closely matches current trends – i.e. with the highest projected emissions – between 12 and 39 per cent of the Earth’s land surface could experience previously unknown climate conditions by 2100. A similar proportion, between 10 and 48 per cent, will see existing climates disappear. Many of these “disappearing climates” coincide with biodiversity hotspots, and with the added problem of fragmented habitats and physical obstructions to migration, it is feared many species will struggle to adapt to the new conditions.

To download the full report, visit www.unep.org.

Get Active
A good place to start getting active about battling climate change is at http://www.350.org/. Learn more and sign up. Also, please call Senators Bingaman and Udall and urge them to push for quick passage of an effective, comprehensive bill in the Senate. Contact the White House and do the same.

September 24, 2009 at 06:06 PM in Climate, Energy, Environment, Green Economy, International Relations, Obama Administration, Oceans, Science, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rep. Heinrich Secures Vital R & D Funding for National Labs


Rep. Heinrich intros his amendment on House floor

Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) today voted for what he called a "fiscally responsible spending bill" that makes key investments in clean energy, energy independence, environmental cleanup, nuclear non-proliferation, and water infrastructure. Click to read a summary of the bill's provisions.

The fiscal year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, H.R. 3183, cleared the House of Representatives with an amendment sponsored by Rep. Heinrich that was adopted by a unanimous vote of 424-0, according to a press release from Heinrich's office. The Heinrich Amendment supports cutting-edge advancements in science and technology at national laboratories by providing for a one percent increase for Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD).

Every year, Congress authorizes the national laboratories to use a specific percentage of their budgets for LDRD projects. In recent years, Congress has allowed eight percent of lab funding to go towards this cutting-edge research. The subcommittee has recommended cutting this allowance to six percent; Rep. Heinrich’s amendment would set it at seven percent.

The Heinrich Amendment would enable our national laboratories to retain expertise and pursue innovative projects by providing additional discretion for Department of Energy laboratories to select research activities. These high-risk, high-reward projects yield cutting-edge advancements in science and technology, and produce some of their most successful research and development initiatives.

In response to the Heinrich Amendment, Sandia Chief Technology Officer Steve Rottler released the following statement:

“We thank Rep. Heinrich for advocating on behalf of scientific discovery and innovation that will ensure our country’s strength in the 21st Century. LDRD projects play an integral role in Sandia National Laboratories’ strategic goal of nurturing core science and technology expertise to enable our national security missions, including enhancement of the security and reliability of our nation’s energy and other critical infrastructures.”

July 17, 2009 at 02:05 PM in Energy, Environment, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Science, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)