10/04/2007 06:17 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Brighter Skies in New Mexico

Albuquerque, NM -- The New Mexico license plate features a bold, graphic sun, so it's ironic that the single biggest obstacle to getting more federal support for solar energy and other renewables has been New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici. A month ago, the Sierra Club, having decided to confront that obstacle, launched a major public education campaign in the state, featuring billboards, lawn signs and bumper stickers that implored: "Senator Domenici, Don't Dim our Future."

The Sierra Club wasn't alone. The Albuquerque Journal supported our points in an editorial that asked:

Did Domenici forget who he was elected to represent? Why is he prominently supporting the southern bloc's effort to kill a renewable energy requirement that could hugely benefit New Mexico and the West?

New Mexicans got the message. Domenici's job approval ratings dropped significantly between mid-July and mid-Sept. A recent SurveyUSA poll showed that 41 percent approved and 56 percent disapproved of the job the Senator was doing -- the lowest numbers he had received since first being elected to the Senate 36 years ago. Before the Sierra Club campaign began, those numbers were reversed.

Suddenly faced with a tough re-election battle, Domenici announced today that he will not run after all. The decision creates another open seat, one for which strongly pro-environmental candidates are likely to emerge. His departure also greatly weakens the Senate lobby to increase taxpayer subsidies to fund a revival of nuclear power.

But Domenici could still leave a renewable legacy. All he has to do is step up to the plate and help his fellow Senator from New Mexico, Jeff Bingaman get his renewable provision added to the final Congressional energy bill. In theory, after all, Domenici is for renewable energy. When he teamed up earlier with Bingaman to prevent Congress from blocking construction of wind power off Cape Cod, he plainly stated that, "The provision in the Coast Guard conference report is absolutely contrary to our nation's growing preference for clean, renewable energy."

So, while Pete Domenici may not be running for re-election, he can still brighten New Mexico's future by helping his colleague pass legislation that would go some way to meeting that "growing preference."