State needs its own Green New Deal

Santa Fe New Mexican - - THE WEATHER -

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.

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