The Carlsbad Current Argus recently ran a story that explained the impact that the natural gas boom in our state has had on the hospitality industry. In short, reporters found hotel and motel operators are having to build more to keep up with demand.
This story could be told in a lot of communities around our state. While anti-energy activists probably would try to argue this news is bad, lawmakers need to appreciate that this is a politically-motivated argument with which most residents would find it hard to agree.
Why? Well, it is hard to disagree with numbers, and we like the numbers we see from this industry.
The natural gas industry supplies jobs and, as the news article made clear, not just along the pipelines or at utilities. New hotel development will mean new opportunities in the construction industry. We will need individuals to work at the hotels, and I’m sure nearby restaurants will be filling out want ads soon enough, if they haven’t already. And we have not yet touched on the manufacturing jobs that are sustained by new shale production. Who do anti-energy activists think makes all of the tools and materials used to build the pipelines? According to one study, by 2020 the unconventional oil and gas manufacturing sector will support 3.3 million jobs across the United States. By 2025, that figure will rise to 3.9 million jobs. We are definitely seeing the results of that kind of growth in Lovington, Hobbs, Eunice and Jal.
The promise of these new jobs is why labor unions in New Mexico and across the country stand with the industry in calling for smart policies and regulations that allow production to continue in a safe and responsible manner. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to refine that gas in both New Mexico and with our neighbors in Texas to create jobs in both states.
The natural gas industry supplies significant tax revenues to local communities and to the state. Estimates for 2018 indicate oil and gas production accounted for approximately one-third of the state’s general fund revenues. Our elementary and high schools received more than $1 billion because of shale development.
The situation is precarious, however. When lawmakers introduced legislation last fall to put an end to new permits for natural gas production, the Legislative Finance Committee explained the proposal “would cause severe revenue losses” to state and local governments. Specifically, the ban would have cost the state government about $3.5 billion and local governments about $327 million in lost revenues.
If you want fewer parks, more crowded classrooms and emergency services that are stretched too thin, then support a ban on shale development.
But, if you want to keep the revenues coming – and save yourself some money – we should support responsible natural gas development. According to the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), families and businesses in the state saved more than $3.4 billion between 2006 and 2016 because natural gas is a cheaper, safer and a more readily available resource.
To close, let’s go back to where we started – the hospitality industry. The CEA also discusses how natural gas impacts the state’s tourism industry. It explains, “In 2016, 35 million visitors traveled to New Mexico to tackle its spectacular mountain skiing, watch hot air balloons lift off, appreciate the art, and view important historical sites. These millions of tourists relied on the hospitality industry, air, rail, and highway transportation that, for many, would not be possible without affordable energy.”
Natural gas provides that energy and opportunity, and we’re all better off for it.