Letter to the Editor
This commentary was submitted by United States Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM). Heinrich is the senior senator representing New Mexico.
Tackling the climate crisis can often feel like an uphill battle in Washington, D.C., but key accomplishments at the end of last year have given me some measure of hope. In one of our biggest victories in the fight against climate change in years, we included a historic measure to phase down the use of hydroflourocarbons–also known as HFCs. Doing so will stave off nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming.
In case you’ve never heard of HFCs before, they are compounds primarily used in coolants and refrigerants that help keep our homes cool and keep our food cold. These chemicals also have a harmful global warming effect that is many times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Luckily, the next generation of climate-friendly HFC replacements are already being made in America and sold throughout the global market. Thanks to our bipartisan agreement, we can finally phase down the use of HFCs.
We also passed a historic investment to accelerate the development of next-generation energy storage technologies. As a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, advocating for the research and development of long-term energy storage has been a top priority. The new bipartisan law that we passed included provisions that I sponsored with Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) to provide federal agencies and national labs with the opportunity to develop advanced storage technologies that will improve efficiency and resiliency in the grid, allow us to integrate more renewable energy sources, and provide days, even months, of backup capacity.
Finally, I am proud that Congress also came to an agreement to extend important wind and solar tax credits that have been critical to securing major new projects that are growing both the wind and solar energy industries in New Mexico. Our state is already becoming a major producer and exporter of clean power–and creating thousands of new jobs in the process.
We saw clear evidence of this in the completion of the Sagamore Wind Project–the largest wind farm in our state’s entire history—and the announcement that construction will soon commence on the Western Spirit transmission line. Sagamore employed hundreds of New Mexico workers and brought hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment to Roosevelt County. Western Spirit will create an estimated 1,000 construction jobs and support four new wind projects in Torrance, Lincoln, and Guadalupe Counties.
With the right policies and forward-looking investments, New Mexico and America as a whole can start making real headway on our climate goals. I have great hope that Congress can build on our momentum and work alongside the new Biden administration to take up important climate legislation. You can count on me to keep fighting for science and for concrete climate solutions.
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