As we approach the special session of the state legislature next week, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to provide relief to workers in New Mexico who are paying more at the pump, while creating long-term solutions for take our economy away from our boom. -and-reliance on oil and gas. Like many of us, I closely followed Vladimir Putin’s senseless invasion of Ukraine – a war that, among other issues, includes oil and gas.
Unfortunately, the oil and gas industry and their allies have used the invasion of Ukraine to advance misleading, “drill more” rhetoric that provides no tangible steps to provide relief or lasting solutions to new Mexicans.
Granted, gas prices are hitting our wallets right now and it hurts. But let’s not be fooled that it is the oil and gas companies that need some kind of “relief” right now from state and federal policies in order to increase production.
In late 2020, a Devon Energy executive said on an investor call that “we have in hand an extensive inventory of approved federal permits that essentially cover all of our desired activities during the next presidential term.” He was referring to the temporary pause that President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland wisely put in place on the issuance of new federal leases last year to consider the climate and fiscal impacts of those leases. The previous administration encouraged the storage of thousands of still unused leases in its final days.
Today, oil companies are dancing to pressure from Wall Street to return cash profits to shareholders rather than investing in more production. According to a new survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, 59% of oil company CEOs said investor pressure was the main reason for their holding back from investing more in supply. Only 6% of these CEOs attributed the lack of production growth to government regulations, such as state or federal safeguards that protect our health, water and climate.
As I testified to Congress last year, we can no longer ignore the negative effects of the oil and gas industry on our state and our future. In addition to our economy, it affects all aspects of our air, land, water, wildlife and the health of our communities. Climate change is here and now, and New Mexico is in the firing line. Historic drought and water shortages continue to threaten the livelihoods of our farmers. Extreme weather events, from flooding to out-of-control wildfires, threaten entire communities in New Mexico every year.
I applaud Senator Martin Heinrich’s efforts to educate homeowners and small businesses on the benefits of electrification for climate, health, and long-term accessibility. Additionally, I endorse the efforts of our local and state elected officials to develop clean energy alternatives. Our state leaders could further lend a hand to consumers in New Mexico – not only by mailing rebate checks to households, which I support – but by setting up a hotline on gasoline prices and holding violators accountable, to serve as a watchdog to protect New Mexico consumers.
True energy independence means diversifying away from the volatility of fossil fuels. Only through a clean energy economy – which maintains high standards of health, safety, environmental and consumer protection – can we protect both the wallets of our communities and the lands in which they thrive.
New Mexico Senator Carrie Hamblen, D-Las Cruces, represents District 38.