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NM conference focuses on green economy

Jan 21, 2008 - Sue Major Holmes - The Associated Press

The head of New Energy Economy wants businesses, universities and governments to create partnerships and put New Mexico in a position "to capture the green wave of investment that's out there."

One of the first jobs is to train workers for the jobs of the future green economy, said John Fogarty, a medical doctor who heads New Energy Economy, a nonprofit dedicated to creating opportunities through solutions to global warming.

New Mexico has already begun the training effort.

At Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, students at the new North American Wind Research and Training Institute are learning how to put up wind turbines, how to maintain them and how to service them. Fogarty said General Electric already has committed to hire all the graduates of the program for the next three years.

There are opportunities for solar programs in Santa Fe and Farmington, green building technology programs in urban areas and training on energy storage at Espanola in association with Los Alamos National Laboratory, he said.

"I think that companies, industries are going to migrate to areas with a trained work force," Fogarty said. "There's a deficiency of trained people in renewable energy right now."

His organization, plus Bioneers, the Regional Development Corporation and the state departments of Economic Development and Workforce Solutions developed a two-day conference that began Wednesday in Santa Fe to talk about opportunities for attracting green jobs to New Mexico and legislation that would encourage the state's green economy.

The goal is to create a statewide network that would develop regional expertise in solar, wind and green building energy efficiency, Fogarty said.

He believes the public is behind such efforts.

"We've seen a sea change in the last few years," he said.

"Green jobs are good jobs, high-paying jobs that are going to stay here," Fogarty said. "They can't ship a house to China to put solar panels on it."

It will be necessary for state and federal governments to invest in green energy, but that will trigger private investment, Fogarty said. In addition, if federal or state lawmakers pass legislation aimed at reducing global warming pollution, "that's going to create a huge signal to private investors to start investing in wind, solar, green building efficiency," he said.

While Fogarty believes New Mexico will be in the forefront, "I think this is really about transforming the economy of America and making sure we have a trained work force" to solve global warming and become energy independent.

He notes Gov. Bill Richardson's support for alternative energy and that President Barack Obama's stimulus package calls for billions of dollars to go into renewable energy programs, including energy efficiency, weatherization and job training.

"The announcements that Governor Richardson and President Obama made are really a reflection of a movement that's happening in America right now, a reflection of the hard work of energy advocates all over the country who have been working for decades to transform the energy economy.

"I feel like we've been climbing a steep cliff for years and can look out over the horizon. ... I think that is the dawn of the new energy economy," Fogarty said.