Hard to imagine the Legislature giving a stiff arm to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s priority to make New Mexico a “hydrogen hub,” but that’s exactly what it should do — for this session.
In many ways, the governor’s pitch makes sense. New Mexico has many assets in place to develop hydrogen technology more rapidly than most states. Establishing a legal framework for making the state a hydrogen energy hub could provide investment and jobs in areas of the state that will suffer in the transition away from a fossil fuel-based economy.
And the federal government wants to spur development in the field. The $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill, approved by Congress and signed into law last year by President Joe Biden, includes $8 billion to build four initial “hydrogen hubs” around the country. It also includes $1 billion in federal assistance for hydrogen-technology research and development.
But, as the Journal has extensively reported, many questions remain about hydrogen’s ability to actually lower carbon emissions. The problem isn’t with the end product, but with the process of producing it from methane, which New Mexico has in abundance.
In this short 30-day session, the Legislature is already facing a plateful of initiatives. The governor wants to green light a legal framework to make trial production projects possible — without giving lawmakers the time to debate the merits of hydrogen as a clean energy alternative.
In other words, the Legislature could commit the state to spending resources developing technology that may ultimately prove to be too costly, too resource-intensive or too lacking in decarbonization gains to have large-scale application.
We don’t have a professional legislature that can deal with complex issues in short order. This 30-day session is packed with pressing budget and crime issues, so it’s hard to believe hydrogen will get the scrutiny it needs. It should be tabled to give the Legislature time to reasonably conclude there’s a definite return on investment — or not.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.