New Mexico is the latest state to succumb to the siren song of the environmental misinformation powering the Green New Deal.
Just a few months after New Mexico accepted nearly half a billion dollars from the federal government for oil and gas leases, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a “zero-carbon” energy mandate on public utilities, which will cost taxpayers millions.
As a native New Mexican, I have always been proud of my home state’s citizens, who are both diverse and resilient. Sadly, this renewable energy agenda is neither.
American energy grids have fueled our nation’s economic success and prosperity because they are based on a diverse range of energy sources, including the ever-resilient and affordable coal and natural gas. Those fuels have powered New Mexico through the coldest winters and the hottest summers, even when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.
Even after tens of billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies, wind and solar produced a mere 8.2 percent of our nation’s electricity in 2018.
Why? It’s simple: They cost too much and show up too little. Even the most advanced battery storage technologies in the world have been unable to affordably compensate for the intermittency of wind and solar. This plan is a desperate bet – with your money – that battery technology will advance dramatically, and on an arbitrary schedule set by New Mexico politicians.
The experiences of governments that have tried to go 100 percent renewable have not been positive and usually ended with skyrocketing energy costs that hit low-income people particularly hard.
The governor must not have heard about Germany’s cautionary tale. After Germany forced renewable energy mandates on its citizens, electricity bills have soared, up 46 percent since 2007. Germany actually has to subsidize coal plants to avoid brownouts when renewable energy fails. And cold-related deaths have actually increased under similar laws in the United Kingdom as skyrocketing electricity costs keep low-income senior citizens from heating their homes.
If Europe’s failures are too distant, New Mexico need only look to its neighboring state of Texas. In the city of Georgetown, just a few miles north of Austin, a misguided renewable plan has buried its residents in a nearly $30 million deficit, with electricity bills already increasing. Soon these deficits could lead to price hikes exceeding $100 per household per year.
Potentially worse than the financial cost of renewable mandates are the environmental consequences. Solar and wind energy consume massive amounts of land, destroy wildlife habitats and are dependent on rare-earth minerals. Production of these minerals is dominated by the Chinese and produces toxic and radioactive waste, destroying more land in the process.
It is bad enough that New Mexicans will be subjected to the fiscal and environmental consequences of unreliable wind and solar energy. What is worse is how little this plan will actually benefit our environment.
According to models used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, even if all of the U.S. power sector eliminated all carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, global CO2 concentrations would drop only 0.7 percent by 2050, rendering a projected temperature decrease of 0.016ºC. This is not a debate about climate – it’s simple math.
And, as an attorney who has practiced air-quality environmental law for 25 years, I can tell you that we have made our air safe without the need for renewable energy, and further emission reductions will not deliver measurable environmental benefits – certainly not enough to justify the costs. The United States is the only highly populated nation to meet the World Health Organization’s standards for particulate matter, which, unlike carbon dioxide, actually harms people. We have achieved these reductions through innovation and pollution control technologies, not top-down mandates. We can continue to keep emissions down using a diverse and affordable range of fuels, including coal and natural gas, so the reliability problems and costs associated with renewable energy are just not justified.
Yet out-of-state energy companies and billionaires have cornered New Mexico’s leaders into a dangerous and costly mandate they simply cannot afford.
The Land of Enchantment should take note that voters of Arizona soundly rejected a similar effort, and one of the loudest voices against the plan came from the Navajo, a people who are also essential to the cultural fabric of New Mexico. Their concerns with renewable mandates tell a compelling story that policy leaders should heed.
New Mexicans don’t deserve to have their electricity bills go through the roof for an unattainable plan fraught with hidden costs and completely lacking in net environmental benefits. The Land of Enchantment needs to stick to energy policy that is based in reality, not ideology.
This commentary originally appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on April 1, 2019.
UPDATE: A U.S. Senator from New Mexico published a rebuttal in the Albuquerque Journal, which we found riddled with factual errors and omissions. Read our comprehensive fact-check here.
Mike Nasi is an environmental and energy attorney with Jackson Walker LLP, where he has been practicing before state and federal environmental and energy agencies and appellate courts for 24 years. He is director of the Life:Powered project.