We recently received a letter from Senator Heinrich responding to our concerns about changes to the energy industry. We also had a video conference with members of his staff. We do appreciate that the Senator provided us with a response – for the record, we have not received any response from Senator Lujan. However, we would be remiss if we did not promptly address the elephant in the room by observing that we have a fundamental disagreement on the future of fossil fuels in our country.
In his letter, the Senator says that a “zero carbon economy” is coming and then discusses ideas to make sure that transition is fair to New Mexicans. He did say that he does not support a permanent, unilateral ban on oil and gas leasing on federal lands, but believes it is appropriate to pause and take a step back.
We believe these discussions of what feels like an attempt for a rapid transition away from the use of fossil fuels to be premature and unrealistic. During a recent meeting, Eddy County Manager Allen Davis asked why we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to the oil and gas industry. Why are we talking about pulling away from using fossil fuels instead of talking about working with the industry to address existing concerns? Why aren’t we focused on directing this incredible resource in New Mexico toward the betterment of this state during this period of extreme economic turmoil?
We certainly do not believe our nation’s infrastructure is anywhere near where it would need to be for such a proposed transition to take place. There aren’t many electrical charging stations between here and Vaughn, for example, and our reliance on petroleum for its byproducts hasn’t changed.
We are also leery about discussions seeking to offset tens of thousands of jobs with pledges of training and stipends to offset this negative impact. While possibly well intentioned, these bandages don’t address the root issue and are proposing to replace a source of revenue with an additional expense. Our community has firsthand experience with the pitfalls of federal programs where funds are not evenly distributed and the effectiveness of such programs are questionable at best. Why are we training our workforce to move away from oil and gas instead of focusing on improving the current industry?
Members of Heinrich’s staff did promise to try to address some of the internal confusion caused by the 60-day ban on all permit approvals. Additionally, we had a good discussion about potential innovations to the oil and gas industry. We certainly support research and development into possible improvements and feel it would be advantageous to include members of our energy industry in these discussions.
However, we remain highly concerned that the Biden administration’s message over the past month has focused on demonizing the energy industry while conjuring up an unrealistic mirage that a world without oil and gas is just around the corner. This dangerous rhetoric may devastate New Mexico schools, jobs and roads, while not actually helping the environment. We must remain grounded in addressing the immediate and dire needs of our constituents. These are real-world issues with thousands of livelihoods at stake.
As County Manager Al Davis said, we believe issues can be addressed without throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Thank you to Heinrich’s area representative, Diane Ventura, for working hard to facilitate communication with the Senator’s Office. We hope to continue our conversation with Senator Heinrich and directly show him our concerns for this community and our state.