Hydrogen hub dream won't repair damage from effects of ETA - Albuquerque Journal

Hydrogen hub dream won’t repair damage from effects of ETA

Jim Townsend

Recent reports have been written about how the Hydrogen Hub bill died in the 30-day session. The truth is, it should have died; it wasn’t ready for prime time. How could legislators pass an energy plan that used a less-efficient, more expensive fuel to produce electricity, which would then increase utility costs to homeowners with no measurable environmental benefit? Even worse, this half-baked plan didn’t even use New Mexico natural gas as the feedstock.

Progressive Democrats rejected the plan even though Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup and chair of House Appropriations and Finance Committee, expended a tremendous amount of political effort on it. Increased electrical costs, transformation from hydrogen to ammonia and inherent safety concerns were significant questions that were not answered.

We are now witnessing the fallout of the hydrogen bill’s defeat in the 2022 campaign cycle. It was recently reported the chairwoman of House Appropriations is helping fund several “moderate” Democrat candidates who are running against incumbent progressive Democrats. Some think the chairwoman is just being vindictive against Democrats who voted against the hydrogen bill. On the surface it might be seen as retaliation, but the reality may be she is sending a message to progressive legislators — their anti-fossil fuel agenda has gone too far and it’s hurting New Mexico’s economic future. It certainly damaged her district.

Two years ago, New Mexico progressives ushered in a bill known as the Energy Transition Act (ETA). Passage of this bill threw our traditional energy production industries out the window. It literally cost hundreds of high-paying jobs in the chairwoman’s district by closing the Escalante Power Plant. The ETA has also caused PNM to notify Albuquerque customers of potential brown-out and black-outs this summer, while PNM customers are being asked to pay over $300 million for the early closure of San Juan Generating Station. The ETA is bad for PNM customers and Lundstrom’s constituents. This is just another example of a special interest law being forced through by Democrat progressives without careful vetting. Elections do have consequences.

The chairwoman voted against the ETA because she understood the impact to utility rates in the future, that it would be devastating to her community and put hundreds of hard-working New Mexicans out of work. Progressives, including Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and the governor ignored this reality and moved forward anyway. Another moonshot, or just a shot in the dark?

The hydrogen hub bill was the chairwoman’s last-ditch effort to create badly needed jobs in her district. Her attempt might have created a few jobs, but it wouldn’t have cured the damage the ETA has wrought in our state. New Mexicans are in for a rude awakening when the ETA starts shutting down power plants in northwest New Mexico, forcing all of us to depend on merchant dealers for our electricity. That’s what the hydrogen plant would have been, a merchant plant, with drastically higher costs to the consumer.

The fact hydrogen production uses methane gas is unacceptable for our environmental groups and their progressive allies in the Legislature. While you and I are forced to pay higher utility bills in the coming years, our state will also experience rolling black-outs, with thousands of New Mexicans being put out of work. This is the price progressives believe you are willing to pay even though there are better, more economical alternatives.

As for the chairwoman getting rid of some of those progressive members in the Legislature who put her community in such a dire predicament, it would be a small victory in an otherwise very unfortunate and ugly battle.

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