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Courtesy Photo: Solar Energy Industries Association C.E.O. Abigail Ross Hopper New Mexico’s U.S. Senator Ben R. Lujan U.S. Senator Tina Smith from Minnesota

Senators Lujan & Smith Talk Renewable Energy

On the morning of January 25, 2022, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Lujan and U.S. Senator Tina Smith participated in a webinar with Abigail Ross Hopper, the CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. Entitled the “We Won’t Quit on Clean Energy” virtual rally, the discussion centered on the two senators’ priorities regarding renewable energy in the wake of President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” failure in the US Senate.

Hopper, who acted as the moderator for the webinar, kicked off the event with a personal question, “Why is this such an important issue for you?”

Senator Smith reminisced of an earlier time in her political career serving as Lieutenant-governor to Governor Mark Dayton (MN) and praised how her state was “leading the way on renewable energy and clean energy standards back in 2007-08.” She became interested in what “the next step” was, how to push forward at the national level as well as the state level. However, what really ignited her passion on the issue was listening to younger Americans speak to her about it. “These young folks came into the office and I thought it was going to be one of those 15-20 minute things where you’re talking to young people about kind of a ‘feel good’ moment but they all sat there and told me how terrified they were that their children when they grow older would not have any snow in Minnesota… It changed everything for me.”

Senator Lujan reminisced about his childhood growing up in north-central New Mexico, learning how to adapt to a quick growing season with a not so predictable snow pack. “When we’d have good years and there was a lot of precipitation up in the mountains and things were working the way they should… for us those were our greatest reservoirs. If we had snow in the winter, we knew we would have water in the summer for irrigation, fields, and ecosystems. In bad years—and lately every year has been getting tougher and tougher, drier and drier conditions, more and more droughts—you need to do everything you can to strengthen these ecosystems, and you see the deterioration especially out west with fire. Now we’re in a twelve-months-a-year fire season… It’s really driven from an earlier time in my life when I thought it was just something we should be doing.”

Hopper then turned the conversation toward the Build Back Better budget bill that had previously failed in the US Senate, asking the two senators what they believed to be the path forward in the wake of that misstep. Senator Smiths: “What we have to do is figure out what has 50 votes and then pass what has 50 votes,” commented, relating how to strip down Build Back Better for passable legislation on renewable energy. “We also need to remember that the climate provisions in the old bill are powerful in reducing carbon emissions and creating a clean energy transition in this country that will lower utility rates and expand clean energy, so I’m feeling pretty optimistic.”

“We showed strong support in the House,” continued Senator Lujan. “The legislation was included in the House report from the climate crisis committee and it was actually legislation that reduced emissions the most in the utility sector, so we should not give up on this. We should still work state-by-state.”

“If you’re concerned about the rise and fall of energy costs, this is the way to go,” said Senator Smith on the volatility of the energy industry. “I think it’s important to create a robust supply chain here in the United States.”

Senator Lujan expressed his own interests in incorporating renewable energy technology into local infrastructure across New Mexico as well as increasing funding for educational programs geared toward engineering in the renewable energy industry. 

Watch the webinar on-demand here: https://bit.ly/3uzDbcp