As many know, New Mexico has 9 million acres of State Trust Land, about $27 billion in the state’s various permanent funds (the people’s savings accounts) and world-class renewable energy resources.
The land is owned and managed by the State Land Office for the benefit of New Mexico. It is not “public land” per se. The permanent funds are managed by the State Investment Council, which directs these funds to be invested in a wide variety of ways, but mostly outside of New Mexico, in Wall Street and foreign equities. A small portion is invested in New Mexico.
At the same time, renewable energy resources (solar and wind) are patiently waiting to be tapped for everyone’s benefit in place of the more expensive and finite oil/gas/coal resources. These fossil fuels are routinely burned, dumping tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere every day.
Ah, our atmosphere, the very thin blanket of air that envelops the planet and which is essential for all life on Earth. We need not continue to use our atmosphere as a handy place to dump the combustion products from burning oil/gas/coal.
So, why is New Mexico waiting to build, literally, hundreds of gigawatts of clean electrical power from the abundant solar and wind resources? We have the land, the money, the technology, the people and the resources … all available. The recent New Mexico Energy Transition Act requires that we become “carbon free” soon for our own electrical energy needs. New Mexico could build not only enough for our state, but also enough to export vast amounts of electrical power to the surrounding region and beyond.
Clean power sales would offset most of the eventual loss of revenue from oil/gas/coal, especially if New Mexico companies own the clean energy businesses and utilities. If developers from other states/countries build and own these clean energy assets, they will accrue most of the financial benefits, similar to the current oil/gas arrangements. The return on such an investment by the State Investment Council would likely exceed its current investments’ returns while transforming the New Mexico economy with thousands of new jobs.
This opportunity is rare. New Mexico finds itself in a magical situation: plenty of land, plenty of investable cash and world-class clean energy resources.
What, pray tell, are we waiting for? How many more studies, plans and road maps do we need to get going? Let’s invest and build some “pilot” projects to get some real-world experience in building these facilities, very soon, like 2020! Then build more and more solar/wind facilities with requisite storage and be a leading source of clean energy for the future. This process literally has no end.
Looking ahead, we will need to upgrade these facilities with technology improvements. This means our investments could provide sustainable jobs and business opportunities for the foreseeable future.
Today, massive renewable energy projects in neighboring states vastly exceed anything going on in New Mexico. This could be viewed as a “race” and, in that view, New Mexico is wa-a-a-ay behind and could easily lose this race. We would end up without the fossil fuel revenue, plus be required to buy much of our clean electricity from elsewhere.
If that happens, New Mexico’s state revenue could suffer even more. Instead, let’s take advantage of our vast, modern, clean energy resources and the investment opportunity they offer to build a robust and sustaining economic future now.
G.M. Ferguson lives in El Prado.