Environmental efforts in N.M. should be applauded, followed

Occasionally in the middle of dark times one can find the fresh sprouts of a green future ahead.

Even though the United States lags unconscionably far behind much of the rest of the world in responsible energy planning and anti-global warming initiatives, New Mexico is taking important first steps in building a responsible and sustainable energy future.

The range of effort is impressive, from PNM's wind power and fledgling biomass programs to Albuquerque's ramped-up mass transit programs; and, from the Rail Runner Express to New Mexico's joining a 12-state lawsuit to force automakers to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

PNM's "Sky Blue" program is good karma offsetting its chronic air pollution problems at its power plant in the Four Corners. It started over three years ago using wind energy produced outside the tiny town of House, New Mexico.

Even though wind's higher costs have contributed to only 12,200 its customers signing on for wind energy, the program really is ideal for the environmentally minded to put their money where their mouths are.

And many of us will be fascinated to see how PNM handles energy from a new biomass power plant near Estancia when it's up and running in 2009.

Every year in the summer weed season, we see enough biomass to light New York City growing around the state. I hope this new effort will pioneer a major, innovative biomass energy industry in our state.

Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez and Transit Director Greg Payne have created a successful mass transit system in Albuquerque for the first time in my memory. It's astounding, really, and enormously hopeful to me that the bus route along Central Avenue recorded 200,000 boardings last month.

The buses in Albuquerque were always a joke. They aren't anymore.

And Gov. Bill Richardson's gamble on the Rail Runner Express from Belen to Bernalillo, with its 1,000 riders a day, is paying off. It shows that with a rail line into Santa Fe, New Mexicans will have a realistic alternative to driving on hair-raising I-25.

I, for one, will try never to drive to Santa Fe again, when the full length of the Rail Runner Express comes to pass.

Perhaps the proudest environmental move by New Mexico's state government in quite a while is in joining with California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Maine and a half dozen other states to challenge the Bush Administration's Environmental Protection Agency's refusal to regulate greenhouse gases emitted by automobiles.

Before the U.S Supreme Court this week, the suit will determine whether California, and other states, can independently set emission standards that Detroit automakers will have to follow. America's prodigal automakers are lobbying all out to oppose the suit. No wonder they have a hard time selling cars.

That New Mexico's fighting the good fight alongside other progressive states is a proud moment for us, - win, lose or draw.

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
December 2, 2006