State needs its own Green New Deal
There is talk of Congress enacting a so-called Green New Deal to address climate change and inequality once the Democrats control government again, but we could do it now in New Mexico.
New Mexicans have just elected the most progressive government in decades, and this would be a great time for a creative program that could address several problems at once.
New Mexico also has a big advantage in the amount of sunlight and wind available to us.
A Green New Deal would basically be a fast-track program to convert all of New Mexico’s energy to renewable energy. There would be many benefits. We would do our part to slow the pace of climate change, which is causing our forests to burn up and our water to dry up.
We would create good-paying jobs for New Mexicans to build and operate the renewable energy systems, and this could be especially helpful in rural areas and Native American communities, where jobs are scarce but land for these projects would be available.
We would also create an ongoing source of revenue when the energy is sold to homes and businesses.
Because New Mexico cannot just borrow money, like the federal government, we would need a source of funding. My very rough calculation is that it would take $8 billion to create the wind and solar installations that would meet all of New Mexico’s current electrical energy needs.
The state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund is worth about $17 billion. So, the state could invest about half of this fund in renewable energy projects to generate the needed electricity.
Right now, renewable energy seems like a better investment than Wall Street for our permanent fund.
There would also be a need to develop storage capacity for when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. This would take more ingenuity, but it is doable.
Some options include pumping water uphill from one reservoir to a higher one during the day and then sending the water back down in the evening, generating electricity. Large batteries are another possibility, as is being done in Australia right now.
With so much energy coming from the public sector, a new legal structure for energy utilities would also need to be developed.
A Green New Deal would not be simple, so the first step would be for the governor and Legislature to appoint a blue ribbon panel of experts that would include environmentalists, lawyers, educators and engineers to map out a plan for developing the new system.
New Mexico has a chance to be a leader in fighting climate change and inequality. Are we brave enough to step up to the challenge?
Hank Hughes is executive director of New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness.