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Much-maligned fossil fuels build prosperous NM

New Mexico recently welcomed members of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee as they held a field hearing in Santa Fe. The visiting federal lawmakers responded to our state’s hospitality by attacking and slandering New Mexico’s most important industry: oil and gas.

Contrary to what these Washington politicians say, a sustainable and economically prosperous future for New Mexico means embracing oil and gas production in our state. Our record budget surplus and declines in methane make it clear that best way to continue on the path to a brighter future for our people is supporting what is already making this happen: responsible development of all of our resources, including oil and natural gas.

The reality is that our state, and our state government, runs on the fossil fuels developed safely and responsibly in New Mexico. Increased energy production means that the industry pays more in severance taxes, rent and royalties, consistently making one-third of our state’s budget.

This year, that number was even more impressive. Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, said that when including permanent funds, “we’re pushing close to 50 percent of revenues coming from energy.” Legislative analysts also said that oil and gas accounted for about 80 percent of the historic state budget surplus.

Not only does the economy of New Mexico rely on oil and gas, the industry also supports our state’s most precious resource, the education of our children. Much of the new revenue legislators had this session went to fund Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s education “moonshot” that will pump an additional $446 million into New Mexico classrooms next year. A stronger education system means each child has a better chance to succeed while also improving our state’s long-term economic outlook.

It’s doubtful that those who seek to run the industry out of our state realize that the education of our children is at stake, and they fail to present viable alternatives to fund our schools.

Energy production also means savings for hard-working families at home. A recent report from Consumer Energy Alliance found New Mexicans saved over $3.4 billion between 2006 and 2016 as more natural gas became available. And the group New Mexicans for Economic Prosperity found that oil and gas production on state trust lands helped save the average household $1,105 last year.

Despite what out-of-state political interlopers would have you believe, New Mexico’s oil and gas industry is a critical lifeline for our state’s success. A recent study by the New York City-based Environmental Defense Fund purported to find a higher level of methane emissions than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates and was promptly debunked for its questionable methodology and use of disputed studies. In fact, the New Mexico Environment Department even said that the EDF’s estimates disregarded key information.

In the Permian Basin, annual methane emissions dropped from 4.8 to 4.6 million metric tons from 2011 to 2017 while production increased 125 percent over the same time period, which means methane emissions intensity dropped 57 percent per unit of production. According to EPA data, methane emissions from oil and gas production in the San Juan Basin have declined every year since 2014.

Whether it’s the revenue that funds New Mexico schools or the remarkable air emissions reductions it is achieving, the oil and gas sector has proven that it is working toward a prosperous, sustainable New Mexico.

We need a sensible energy policy, both at the federal and state level, that strives to harness the full capabilities of New Mexico’s resources ensuring safe, responsible production and a strong economic future.

Our current practice of embracing our state’s bountiful resources is providing safe, affordable, abundant energy to our people. We should continue on this sustainable path, rather than threaten our state’s well-being with political stunts that target the existence of an industry.

Carlsbad Department of Development is a private nonprofit agency that promotes the economic and general welfare of the citizens of the City of Carlsbad and Eddy County. Four Corners Economic Development (4CED) works to create a business-rich environment to drive the local economy in northwestern New Mexico.


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