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Getting the New Mexico Legislature “In Hot Water”

When the New Mexico State Legislature passed a Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit, geothermal energy was excluded. “Geothermal should receive a production tax credit, the New Mexico Legislature needs educating” according to Jim Witcher, a geologist and geothermal expert. Witcher has testified before the U.S. Congress as an expert witness on geothermal energy and says “I don’t understand why the Bush administration has ended the geothermal program at the Department of Energy.”

Witcher points out, “The focus in NM should be on direct-use (using hot water at the geothermal site) in the industrial and agriculture sectors.“ The economic potential of direct use far exceeds that of electricity production, is more water friendly and has real energy cost savings compared to fossil fuels. Arizona has a geothermal direct use Production Tax Credit based on Btu (heat production) that according to Witcher could be a model for the New Mexico law. Current geothermal uses in New Mexico are primarily greenhouses and aqua culture (fish farming). There is increasing awareness of the potential for geothermal heat pump applications (space heating and cooling) and using geothermal energy in the manufacture of biofuels and other agricultural applications (mushroom culture, fruit and vegetable drying and food processing).

The potential for New Mexico’s low temperature resources in industrial uses such as cooking curing and drying would replace the need for generating and transmitting fossil fuel energy. “I think the BTU production credit for geothermal is a good idea” agreed Ben Luce, Director of the New Mexico Coalition for Clean and Affordable Energy. The Coalition helps draft clean energy legislation and works with the Governor, the Legislature and the Public Regulation Commission to pass and implement laws. In past legislative sessions, the Coalition has been successful in collaborating with experts like Jim Witcher in educating legislators and moving clean energy bills to the Governor’s desk.