The October announcement that Saudi Arabia, Russia and other oil producing countries – known as OPEC plus – are planning to cut output, and inflate gas prices for drivers, makes it clear that energy is going to be weaponized by nations seeking to challenge America’s global influence.
Regrettably, gas prices aren’t the only energy crisis on the horizon.
Parts of New Mexico are facing a potential electricity shortage after the San Juan Generating Station ceased operations in October. The plan was for solar and battery storage to fill that power gap, but these options aren’t quite ready for action. These electric shortages mean that utility bills will almost certainly go up.
This winter, New Mexicans hoping to heat their homes with natural gas will also be facing a price shock. Natural gas prices are rising across the globe.
As a state representative in Massachusetts for over two decades, who chaired the Homeland Security Committee and has focused on national security issues in other roles, I am not shocked by this revelation about natural gas. Over the last few months it has become clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to cut off his supply of natural gas to Europe, as retaliation for their support of Ukraine.
Another energy challenge facing New Mexico is the state’s commitment to electrification. This is why, earlier this year, my organization surveyed New Mexican’s attitudes towards electric vehicles (EVs). The poll found that while 94% of respondents are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the high costs of gas and oil, only 5% say they are “very likely” to purchase an EV in the next two to three years.
In fact, when asked how Congress should prioritize spending, issues that were most appealing were funding for “ending childhood hunger,” “police training and hiring,” and coming in dead last among respondents was “more funding for increasing the number of electric vehicles.”
Reflecting these common-sense views on EVs, was the Democrats’ decision in Washington to walk away from Build Back Better, to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, at the end of the summer. As you may recall, the original Build Back Better was a grab bag of progressive priorities like implementing parts of the Green New Deal, backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
The Inflation Reduction Act also included price caps on EV tax breaks for both wealthy purchasers and expensive luxury EVs. It also included provisions to ensure EVs are built in America, and that we sourced batteries from minerals produced domestically, not sourced from Chinese companies. Every Democrat that represents New Mexico in Congress voted for the Inflation Reduction Act.
Finally, if we have a cold winter in America, and electricity prices become crippling, there is going to be political pressure applied to President Joe Biden to suspend exports of natural gas to Europe to help ease domestic prices. While this might be tempting, I am confident that President Biden will resist these calls in order to help our European allies resist Putin’s deadly grip.
Keep in mind, Putin views the U.S. as his primary enemy, and the stronger he is, the more he will undermine America. This could be in the form of eroding confidence people have in our elections and fanning the culture wars which are driving Americans apart.
This may all seem like bad news. But, over the long term, I am confident as new clean energy resources come online, and the world eases their dependence on Russian fossil fuels, that our global energy crises will almost surely ease.
Naughton served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1995-2021 and is president of the Centrist Democrats of America.