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Editorial: New Mexico senators should pump up Lujan Grisham’s oil vote

In a changing energy world, where the United States is transitioning to an all-of-the-above energy strategy, does it make any sense to remain bound by a 40-year-old oil export ban because you don’t approve of fossil fuels?

Of course not. That’s not optimizing current fuel sources to move further toward renewables and cleaner energy; that’s standing still with no path forward.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham understands that. The Albuquerque Democrat put party politics aside last week and voted with 25 other House Dems and the Republican majority to lift the 1970s energy crisis-era ban on crude oil exports. Unfortunately, fellow N.M. Democrat Rep. Ben Ray Luján voted against lifting the ban under the guise of wanting “a long-term energy strategy that recognizes the important role that oil and gas producers play in New Mexico’s economy, while also supporting an all-of-the-above approach that includes New Mexico’s abundant renewable resources.”

Um, what does he think lifting this ban does?

Lujan Grisham knows that “New Mexico families are still struggling, and I believe that lifting the ban on crude oil exports, increasing investments in renewable energy resources, and adopting clean energy protections are all an important part of increasing economic growth and creating jobs for New Mexican families.”

Her fellow New Mexico Democrats in the Senate should plug into that line of thinking.

Sen. Martin Heinrich says he is “open to the idea” of lifting the ban if there’s some element emphasizing renewables, and Sen. Tom Udall wants strategic limits on crude oil exports to ensure no return to the bad old days of an OPEC oil embargo and U.S. energy crisis. Both are reasonable concerns, along with the House plan to disallow oil exports to U.S.-hating Iran, yet the trick will be to lift an outdated ban with legislation that isn’t weighed down with 100-plus special requests.

Heinrich says “there is a lot of talking going to find some common ground.”

That’s important, and the senators from our major energy-producing state – oil, natural gas, solar, wind and biomass – need to push what their Republican colleague in the House emphasized last week. N.M. Rep. Steve Pearce explained “mounting evidence makes clear that lifting the antiquated oil export ban would spur our economy and would create and preserve thousands of good-paying jobs. Not only will lifting the ban increase U.S. jobs; it will also boost America’s economy and could lower the price Americans pay at the pump.”

That economic injection – as well as the White House’s desire to curtail oil and gas subsidies – should be how the nation helps fund alternative energy advancement and expansion, rather than saddling average ratepayers with the cost.

New Mexico and the nation are at an energy crossroads, and we need New Mexico’s delegation to help the rest of Washington pick forward as the direction to move in.

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.