Energy & Climate Change
Relying on oil, coal, and natural gas for the bulk of our energy needs is ultimately a losing proposition. Fossil fuels will peak and run out someday. In the meantime, they’re becoming increasingly less efficient and more environmentally harmful to extract. Burning them perpetuates so many problems (water, soil and air contamination, habitat destruction, oil spills, to name a few) that it’s clear that we need to diversify our sources of energy as soon as possible.
In addition, our reliance on fossil fuels is driving changes in our climate that are already having devastating effects on New Mexico — clearly visible in the severe drought and catastrophic wildfires we have been experiencing over the last several years.
Fortunately, New Mexico boasts a wealth of clean, renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal sources and more. We have the ability and resources to make renewables cost-effective and to minimize unintended consequences.
Making the “power shift” calls for major investments in green industry, including training a workforce for these jobs. The creation of green jobs — guiding the economy towards environmentally friendly, zero- and low-emission technologies while creating jobs in a down economy — is a relatively new, but extremely timely issue.
Green jobs are appropriate and promising for individuals across the spectrum of New Mexico’s workforce — ranging from entry-level to advanced, highly technical positions. Despite the variation in education and skill requirements, green jobs pay more than average ($22.05 in 2009, compared to $18.93 for all other occupations). And while specific numbers vary by study, green jobs in New Mexico are projected to grow faster than others, which is great news in these troubling economic times.
Example of action that promotes clean energy and tackles climate change:
New Mexico was one of the national leaders in driving the clean energy economy by adopting renewable energy standards — requiring utilities to generate a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, like solar and wind. The standards were set at 10% by 2011, 15% by 2015, and 20% by 2020. As a result, our state’s clean energy industry has boomed, providing growing numbers of green jobs that pay well.
However, many other states have caught up with or exceeded our requirements, which is beginning to affect the health of our clean technology sector.
Example of action that hurts clean energy and exacerbates climate change:
In November 2011, Gov. Martinez’s Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) — a board whose members are significantly aligned with polluting industries — began hearings to dismantle rules that would reduce New Mexico’s carbon pollution. Adopted after dozens of hours of public comment, expert testimony, and cross-examination, these rules aimed to create new clean energy jobs and combat climate change. In December 2011, the board voted to overturn the state’s participation in a regional cap-and-trade program; and in March 2012, it proceeded to also overturn the state’s carbon cap rule.
Efficiency is by far the most effective energy policy there is to save money, generate jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and alleviate the environmental and health impacts of fossil fuel industries. The less energy we use, the fewer negative impacts we suffer, plain and simple. In 2009, New Mexico adopted a new energy-efficient building code that would have saved consumers money on utility bills, while spurring job creation in the energy efficiency sector and combating climate change. In June 2011, however, the Construction Industries Commission (CIC) reversed course and dismantled the energy conservation code, providing no explanation for their actions. This decision hurt New Mexico consumers and workers. More details on what happened can be found here.