February 2010

February 2010 PDF Edition

Needed: Sustainable,Scientific, Integrity-Based Energy Policies, Renewable Energy Development in NM, PNM Files New Portfolio Plan, Commentary on PNM Agreement and Renewable Policy in NM, SF County Renewable Energy Financing District, Dreaming NM: The Restoration Economy, Energy Efficient Building Retrofits, Toast, Pancakes and Waffles: Planning for Off-Grid Living, Newsbites, What Ever Happened to “Reduce and Reuse?”, Green Energy, Ecosystems and the Wild, Water – Another View, Small Scale Desalination in Tularosa, Gourmet Delights for Pollinators, Good Jobs / Strong Economy, What’s Going On!

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Needed: Sustainable, Scientific, Integrity-Based Energy Policies

by Gerald B. Ansell

Note: Italicized words refer to sustainability policy nomenclature described by Professor John Ehrenfeld in “Sustainability by Design.”

So many realists and environmental activists who truly care about where our precious and uniquely supportive planet appears to be heading feel enormous disappointment at what was achieved in Copenhagen in December 2009, especially since this was a seemingly logical follow-up to the early 1990’s Kyoto agreements. Within an estimated plus or minus 5-10 years, it is reliably and geologically estimated that Peak Oil Production may have already passed the world by. Disturbingly, the Copenhagen Conference followed less than 18 months More >

What ever happened to “Reduce and Reuse”?

By Robert Montoya

Ask a random person what it means to be green, and they will probably provide some type of explanation that includes the word recycling. The problem is, that reduction and reuse actually have a much larger impact on the environment than recycling. My theory is that, since America is such a wasteful society, we have a lot of things to recycle. An over emphasis of a low priority eco-solution over a higher priority eco-solution can actually do more harm than good to the environment.

I learned this lesson the hard way, by running a recycling business. My company, at More >

Renewable Energy Development in New Mexico

by Allan Sindelar

New Mexico has been moving on a deliberate path to become the Clean Energy State since “net metering” – the right to spin your electricity meter backward and be credited for the energy – became law in 1999. Our state is now considered to be among the top states in the country for renewable energy and is poised to grow rapidly in photovoltaic (PV) and renewable energy. Here is an overview of recent developments and an outlook for the near future.

Political Leadership

Last month Governor Richardson signed an executive order that outlines the state’s course to building a More >

Small Scale Desalination Online in Tularosa

How big can desalination plants get?

Joan E. Price – South Central New Mexico Correspondent

In the historical effort to clean saline water sources for municipal use, costs have skyrocketed for the technologies that would do the cleaning. In the meantime, customers in the rural areas of Otero County pay for desalinated water by the gallon in small stores – for coffee, tea and juicers – because the taste is so much better.

The technology to desalinate millions of gallons is the same as that used in a small store run by Maurice and Mary Hobson in Tularosa, where individuals who live far More >

Letters to the Editor


Congrats on stirring up discussion about LEED.

I was invited to be on the expert panel to revise LEED v 1, because I’d written a book, Sustainable Landscape Construction. We met on an opulent Rockefeller estate, a schizoid experience – but that’s another story.

Prior to this, LEED had little landscape architectural representation; we added many outdoor-tactic points. But one fundamental issue was unresolvable: a perfectly green structure, placed badly within an ecosystem, can still do more damage than good. At that time, for example, you could not get LEED certification if smoking was permitted, but you could if you built in More >

My Own Garden Gourmet Delights for Pollinators – Xeric Plant Selections

by Susan Waterman

You may be one of the many gardeners who look forward to having an early taste of spring in February by attending the annual NM Xeriscape Council Conference and Expo in Albuquerque (February 25-28). There will be many gardening, plant and soil experts there with numerous displays, seminars and information tables.

In keeping with the upcoming conference, I was inspired to consider the place for xeric plants, flowering plants requiring minimal water, in the food garden. These plants have a superstar role where they are highly beneficial and even essential – as attractors for pollinators such as honey bees, More >

Green Energy, Ecosystems and the Wild

by Stan Euston

Remembering a backpack trip in the Pecos, I still can see and smell and hear the morning in its pure clarity. In all this wonder I think I’m alone in the high mountains. But really? Well, no. In the distance I spot several bighorn sheep munching their way across an alpine meadow. Or I think I do. On second look, binoculars in hand, I see the antlers and know they’re elk. Grand enough.

I watch these great creatures in the rocky mountain meadow. A few marmots are whistling. And I mull over a thought that is strangely freeing: “These More >

Water – Another View

by Doug Pushard

In last month’s article I reviewed our growing population and the declining precipitation rates that Northern New Mexico has experienced over the past several decades. This paints a very arid picture indeed for this part of the country. Pumping more water or increasing water transfer from other areas is not going to solve this problem; it just increases the need for more power generation, and this directly translates into more power plants. For those of us who love our amazing vistas and crystal clear blue skies, the solution to our water needs can’t involve polluting our skies. Clearly, More >

Local Solutions: Renewable Energy Financing District in Santa Fe County

by Duncan Sill

There is definitely not a shortage of discussion about energy, the economy and climate change these days. Recurring challenges remain, equally on the global, national and local levels, with how we will find sustainable solutions to integrate this nexus and its inherent interconnections. To a large extent, economics play a pivotal role in both the systemic problem and solution. Many of us want to better address energy and climate change issues, and there are relevant initiatives on the local community level that support these efforts. However, resources, especially financial, remain very limited, and beyond energy efficiency measures, which have More >

PNM Files New Portfolio Plan While Appealing Third-Party Generation Ruling

by Seth Roffman

Working to set an example for other Western states in supporting a federal agenda for global warming and energy solutions, stakeholders and NM’s largest utility have developed an ambitious renewable energy plan to comply with state mandates. PNM filed the plan with the NM Public Regulation Commission on Jan. 25. It marks a milestone in negotiations between environmental organizations, the utility and industry in NM.

NM ranks second in the nation in solar potential. Governor Richardson has called the state the “Saudi Arabia of Solar.” Still, with more than 300 days of full sunshine a year, NM has More >

Commentary on Recent PNM Agreement and Renewable Policy in NM

by Brian Cassutt

Good policy attempts to fairly weigh the legitimate concerns of various stakeholders. Such are the challenges of setting the environmental goals of New Mexico’s electrical infrastructure. How do you balance the growth of the budding renewable energy industry with the need for utilities to stay financially healthy, while keeping energy affordable and reducing carbon emissions? This was the basic question asked throughout recent policy talks regarding PNM’s renewable portfolio and new solar incentive structure.

The talks resulted in a stipulated agreement that will be examined by the NM Public Regulation Commission over the coming months. The plan maintains heavy More >

Energy Efficient Building Retrofits – What is the Hold Up?

by Birk Jones M.S, E.I.T

Existing commercial and residential buildings are responsible for almost half of all energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the US. But while fancy, big-windowed, eco-friendly new buildings get all the press, what people often forget about is the huge number of energy-inefficient buildings in existence that will not be torn down anytime soon. To make a significant dent in CO2 emissions nationwide, it will be necessary to make those buildings efficient by implementing energy retrofits. And, building owners can save money in the process.

Energy retrofits are also necessary because of changes in use and More >

The Restoration Economy Will Heal the Atmosphere

Cash flows and energy flows always entangle



by Project Directors Kenny Ausubel and Peter Warshall

“Socialized” costs

New Mexico (and the U.S.) have never had a coherent policy on how much the costs of energy should come from public coffers. How much of energy production, transport, processing, use and waste handling should be at taxpayer expense? Nuclear power is the most “socialized” of all energy production, enjoying the largest energy subsidies in U.S. history at almost every step from mine to waste burial. Oil and gas receive huge tax breaks— regardless of market price. Public financing must place More >

Good Jobs/Strong Economy & The Role of Sustainability

by Santa Fe Mayor Mayor David Coss

We must get Santa Feans back to work.

That is why I’ve come up with a blueprint for our economy to create 4,000 jobs over 4 years. Our target is for 18 percent of those jobs to be implicitly in green energy and sustainability. It’s going to take innovation, collaboration, and creativity; but I think we can do it.

Santa Fe, like the rest of the country, is being hit by a down-turned economy and a recession that is resulting in hard budget choices and job loss. National trends such as falling home prices, limping credit More >