Despite having the largest budget surplus in state history, lower unemployment and surging job growth, several lawmakers continue to hurt the industry most responsible for this string of feel-good …
Despite having the largest budget surplus in state history, lower unemployment and surging job growth, several lawmakers continue to hurt the industry most responsible for this string of feel-good headlines: energy.
The latest example is a new law that will force publicly regulated utilities to get 80 percent of their electricity from renewables like wind and solar by 2040 and 100 percent from carbon-free resources by 2045. We all support energy diversity, including wind and solar, but New Mexico currently gets half its electricity from coal and a third from natural gas.
Quickly cutting off these abundant, affordable resources for more expensive alternatives would drastically increase prices for seniors, households -- especially those in rural areas -- and families in lower-income brackets who spend far more of their take-home pay on energy expenses like electricity and gasoline than those in other income brackets.
It would also reverse much of the economic growth the state has seen.
About 80 percent of the growth in state income this past year came from the oil and gas sector, via severance taxes, rent, royalties, secondary taxes on sales and business-to-business transactions. This has led to the state's largest job growth in over a decade. Unemployment is at its lowest in years, and more funding has been allocated to critical municipal services.
Lawmakers should want to help, not prevent local energy production -- especially now that a recent U.S. Geological Survey found that the Delaware portion of the Permian shale field contains about 46.3 billion barrels of oil. That's about 49 years' worth of oil at current production rates and decades' worth of budget surpluses and economic growth.
New Mexico deserves policies that balance environmental protection and energy production equally. This law doesn't cut it.
Victoria Gonzales is the state director of the Consumer Energy Alliance and lives in Cimarron.
Editor's Note: CEA is a nonprofit with membership made up largely of chambers of commerce and every major oil, gas, coal and natural gas producer and supplier in the United States. New Mexico passed the energy law to begin moving off of dependence on oil, gas and coal over the next 20 years and address the major cause of climate change. The state must, though, come up with a plan to move New Mexico's economy off of its reliance on fossil fuel revenues in the same time frame.
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