February 14, 2011

Udall: NM Will Lead the Way in Race for Clean Energy Economy

Senator Delivers Biennial Speech to State Legislature

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) today delivered his biennial address to the New Mexico Legislature, where he discussed the state's leadership role in building the economy of the future through the development of clean energy technologies. The full text of his remarks is below.

Udall's Remarks as Delivered:

"Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Sanchez. I also want to recognize President Pro-Tem Jennings. Great to see you, Tim. And Speaker Lujan, you would be very proud of the remarkable job your son is doing in Washington.

"I also want to congratulate Governor Martinez once again on her inauguration as our state's first female governor - and the nation's first female Hispanic governor. I look forward to working with Governor Martinez on a wide variety of issues important to the people of New Mexico. I had an opportunity to have a short discussion with her this morning. I also want to thank my escorts. And finally, thanks to all of the distinguished members of the New Mexico Legislature.

"As we are here today, New Mexicans are still recovering from severe winter storms that cut off critical natural gas services for over 30,000 families and a number of small, local businesses. The storms caused major disruptions and threatened public health and safety. Even national security was impacted, as these outages affected key facilities at Kirtland, Sandia, and LANL.

"As the crisis unfolded, my office offered assistance to the governor and the local mayors. And we are working with various federal agencies and FEMA to ensure that New Mexico receives all the assistance that it deserves.

"Like many of you, we also strongly encouraged the New Mexico Gas Company to do everything to restore vital home heating as quickly as possible. Now that the heat is back on in most places, we can begin investigating how this unusual and traumatic event occurred. I very much appreciate what you did in the Senate and the House to look into this matter.

"Reports indicate that interstate energy reliability failures were a key part of this story. Power outages in Texas reduced the flow of natural gas into the system at the very moment we needed it the most. Congress and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will review these incidents to determine whether federal reliability rules were followed and take appropriate action to improve New Mexico's energy security.

"On Saturday, I visited some of the communities that were hit by the loss of the gas. I was struck by how the communities stuck together in times of crisis. This is really what got us through this crisis. I thank all those first responders who came in to help with this horrible situation.

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"Now, I know you're in the middle of the session, and that you are very busy. The problems we've faced over the past two years have fallen heavily on all of you here today. New Mexicans count on state government to provide critical services, especially in times of economic hardship. And all of you have performed admirably under difficult circumstances.

"We've come a long way since the last time I stood before you. It's been a difficult couple of years, but we're finally beginning to turn a corner. The economy is no longer in a free fall. We've begun to stem the tide of unemployment. And businesses in New Mexico are showing signs of growth again.

"There are a lot of variables that have played a part in our recovery. One important factor was the Recovery and Reinvestment Act that we passed two years ago. For New Mexico, it meant an additional $3.9 billion dollars. Just as important, it created or saved almost 18,000 jobs for our hardworking citizens.

"The Recovery Act means that critical infrastructure projects like roads and highways and bridges have been built or repaired, creating jobs for New Mexicans. It means that communities didn't have to lay off education and public safety employees - keeping teachers in the classrooms and police officers patrolling our streets. And it means that innovative New Mexico companies have received loans to begin building their dreams.

"We also passed health care reform. Lots of people have different opinions on the law. It's not perfect, by any means. And I am open to changes from my friends on both sides of the aisle to improve upon it. But it was an important step forward toward ensuring quality healthcare for EVERY New Mexico family - and that's why I voted for its passage.

"Because of this law, more than 400,000 New Mexicans will have access to critical health care coverage. They can no longer be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. And the new law is helping to build our health care infrastructure. That's especially important in a state like ours, where so many people live in rural areas and access to health care is difficult.

"Finally, we've been fighting to ensure New Mexico gets its fair share of federal funding. You've already heard from other members of the delegation. I know that each emphasized how important robust federal funding is to our state. But it bears repeating.

"I think it was Senator Bingaman who told you this: for each dollar we sent Washington in 2009, New Mexico received $3.34 of federal funds in return. That's the third-highest return of any state in the country. A lot of that is thanks to decades of work by Jeff Bingaman and Pete Dominici and others.

"So where does that money go?

"It means $4.6 billion from the Department of Energy for our national labs and other priorities. It means $2.6 billion for our Medicaid program - an amount that could increase to between $3.1 billion and $5.6 billion in three years thanks to the new health care law.

"It means almost $500 million for K-12 educational programs. And another $300 million for our universities. It means $383 million for transportation - mainly highway construction, and another $68 million for water and wastewater projects. And it means $2.3 billion for Department of Defense priorities. That includes funding for our military installations, including Cannon, Kirtland, Holloman, White Sands, and Ft. Bliss, which we share with Texas.

"These are very big numbers. Then you add in the funds New Mexico receives for all of the federal payment programs - things like Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and many others - and that total reaches $27 billion dollars.

"Let me repeat: $27 billion dollars. That's how much New Mexico received in total in 2009 from the federal government.

"Now, there's been a lot of talk recently about cutting the national deficit and cutting the national debt. It's something I believe we must do in order to maintain our economic and national security. But we must do it carefully so that New Mexico is protected, so that important priorities and critical services in our state receive the funding they deserve.

"Moving forward, we'll continue to push for robust federal funding for state priorities. But here at home, we must also find new and innovative ways to leverage those federal funds to build a diversified private sector that thrives in this changing economy.

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"Everything we've been doing for the past two years has been in the pursuit of one goal: stabilizing the foundation of our economy. None of our work in Washington - none of your work here in Santa Fe - has been easy. But we're getting it done.

"Now the time has come to ask ourselves: what next? What we do next will determine whether we remain a global economic leader, or become a country that settles for mediocrity in the middle of the pack.

"I think all of you will agree with me that the second option is not an option!

"I think all of you will agree with me that we're at an exciting moment in history. As a country, we face great challenges in making our economy thrive in a world transformed by revolutions in technology. But Americans have a funny way of looking at great challenges and seeing great opportunities. The genius of our system is that it rewards those willing to step up and tackle our most pressing and difficult problems. The problems we face now demand both active involvement of government and the tremendous energy of the private sector.

"As the President said last month in the State of the Union, ‘We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.'

"I believe New Mexico is well-poised to lead the way. The Land of Enchantment truly is the "Land of Opportunity" when it comes to the development of clean energy resources.

"Here in New Mexico, we have first-class wind resources in the north and east, and solar resources all over the state. We have major biomass power opportunities from dairy and forest management. And more than half of our state is a potential geothermal power source.

"More than all of that, we have the ingenuity and knowledge to use these resources to their fullest potential. Between 1998 and 2008, clean energy jobs grew 25 times faster than other jobs in New Mexico. We call these the jobs of the future. Increasingly, they are also the jobs of today.

"So that's what I want to talk with you about today. How, if we do it right, New Mexico will continue to be a national leader in harnessing the power of clean, renewable energy. A leader in innovation through our national labs. A leader in education and training and research at our universities. And a leader in putting New Mexicans to work through our blossoming clean energy private sector.

"So, where do we begin? First, let's take stock of what we've already got going for us.

"No. 1 - New Mexico is a national hub of innovation, particularly when it comes to the development of clean energy technologies.

"Our national labs are a force of gravity that pulls bright minds, investment dollars and jobs to our state. Sandia National Lab invented the clean room, paving the way for high-tech and semiconductor industries around the world. It ranks as the #1 cited institution in energy and fuels research in academic journals. About a hundred miles up the road, Los Alamos is an equally vibrant hub of innovation. By replacing dangerous nuclear tests with computer simulations based on large-scale computing, Los Alamos opened the door for economic dividends by attracting ideas, businesses and projects to our state.

"But it doesn't end there. The research strength of our labs flows out to our universities, which are developing smarter electric grids, sustainable development practices, and improving the energy efficiency of a wide variety of projects. Complementing that work are New Mexico's community colleges and technical schools. One great example is over in Tucumcari at Mesalands Community College. Students there are training for jobs in the renewable energy economy at the North American Wind Research and Training Center.

"So that's No. 1. We've got the hubs of research and innovation to lead the clean energy revolution.

"No. 2 - we've got a thriving business community that is leading the way in the development of clean energy technologies.

"One model for the future is the Technology Venture Corporation in Albuquerque. TVC helps bring technologies from New Mexico's national labs and turn them into fast-growing, job-creating homegrown companies. So far, 113 New Mexico companies - and more than 13,000 jobs - have been supported by TVC.

"Another example is the High Lonesome Mesa wind project in Torrance County. It received $50 million in federal funds through the Recovery Act's Treasury Grant Program. I worked hard in the last Congress to ensure this program was extended, and we hope to see more projects in New Mexico take advantage of it.

"And further south in Luna County, construction will begin soon on the nation's first commercial-scale, algae-based biorefinery. This project received $100 million in federal loans that New Mexico's delegation worked hard to bring to our state. It's expected to create 750 construction jobs and 30 permanent jobs in our county with the state's highest unemployment rate.

"The bottom line is this: New Mexico has the creativity and the resources to transform America's energy economy and create the jobs of the future, right here at home. It is up to us how we do that. And I'm the first to say that government must do a better job of unleashing this spirit.

"Which brings me to point No. 3. When you step back and take a look at the examples I just highlighted, it's clear that the lifeblood of each and every one of them is investment in research and development.

"Historically, the United States has been the unquestioned global leader in R&D. Approximately one-third of all research and development occurs in the United States, and one-quarter of all science and engineering researchers around the world are working in the U.S. But our total national R&D spending - both public and private - is only about 2.6 percent. For some perspective, Japan's R&D is nearly 3.5 percent of their economy, and Korea has recently passed us and is catching up with Japan.

"To succeed in the 21st Century, we must do better. Studies over the years estimate that as much as 90 percent of economic growth stems from innovation in science and technology.

"Unfortunately, when it comes to R&D in the energy sector, we fall short. Federal energy research peaked at $9 billion in 1979. Over the last decade, we've averaged less than half that amount each year.

"Federal energy research is dwarfed by the amounts we spend on health care and national defense research, where the federal government respectively spends more than $20 billion and $100 billion a year. These areas are both important. But as we know, our energy policy plays a critical role in national security. And our dependence on foreign oil puts us at risk. Instability can develop in oil producing nations without warning, and every New Mexico family and business is at risk from these energy price spikes.

"Our current energy policy also threatens our environmental security. The global climate crisis is real. Unless we transition to clean energy sources, we will pay a heavy price. Here in New Mexico, science tells us we will have more devastating forest fires, droughts, and invasive species caused by climate change.

"Unfortunately, private sector R&D is also in a bad situation. While figures are hard to track, some estimate that U.S. companies reduced investments in energy R&D by 50 percent in the 1990s. That's a drop from $4 billion to $2 billion. And they've stayed at that level since then. Today, some biotechnology firms spend more on R&D than the entire U.S. energy sector!

"The fact that federal and state finances are under stress means we should continue to focus on energy standards as a cost-effective way to drive research and development in the private sector.

"Our state government - led by all of you here - has been a tremendous leader with our Renewable Electricity Standard. And New Mexico is benefitting from standards in other states like California and Texas that increase demand for our renewable power. If the right transmission projects are built, New Mexico can provide clean, reliable power to population centers on all three coasts and the heartland.

"Working with Senator Bingaman, we came close to setting a modest national renewable electricity standard last year. And over the next year we will work with the President and both parties to find new ways forward. This call is consistent with my guiding energy principle of ‘do it all, do it right.'

"This year, I will reintroduce legislation that calls for 25 percent of our total to come from renewable energy. And I will continue to work on natural gas legislation that will convert heavy trucks to run on clean natural gas and rely less on foreign oil.

"In addition, new technologies and enhanced oil recovery can increase our domestic oil supplies in the Permian and San Juan Basins. And as evidenced by the new enrichment facility in Lea County, nuclear power will continue to be part of the mix. Finally, the coal industry is partnering with the Department of Energy to make carbon capture and storage technology a reality and a sustainable source of energy.

"Of course, we must remain ever vigilant that we use these sources safely and with respect for public health and our state's assets. We must continue to protect the sparkling spring water, clean mountain air, and pristine wilderness that we all love and that bring thousands of tourists and millions of dollars to our state.

"Between Senator Bingaman and myself, New Mexico has a voice on the two Senate Committees responsible for our nation's energy and environmental policies. Jeff is chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. And I serve on the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee.

"Together we are making sure New Mexico's concerns are addressed. We're promoting our state's clean energy industry. And we're always on the lookout for new ways to incentivize the development of clean energy technologies here in New Mexico.

"Working with all of you here today, New Mexico will continue to be a leader in growing the clean energy jobs of the future.

"It is up to us to rise to the challenge. And I'm confident New Mexico will lead the way."