Compensate N.M. for cutting back on oil and gas

The articles that appeared in The New Mexican (“For affordable electricity, keep natural gas,” July 10; “Oil, gas revenue fuels our schools,” July 11) by Tom Greer and Kayli Ortiz, respectively, make a frequently expressed argument about the oil and gas industry in New Mexico, i.e., climate change is important, or even vital, but the cost of giving up extracting oil and gas from the ground is just too high, both in lost revenue and loss of jobs.

Taking such action will knee-cap the state budget and force drastic cuts in the state’s support of education, as well as result in large increases in the cost of electricity to all consumers.

The problem with these arguments is that if you buy into them, we will never take the actions needed to keep the Earth habitable for the people, animals, plants, insects, etc. that form our current ecosystem, and the lives of every living thing today, and into the future, will pay the price, in dollars, in horrible living conditions and, ultimately, in extinction.

The rising concentration of greenhouse gases is real and driving climate change, resulting in higher temperatures, melting glaciers, a rising sea level, increased ocean acidity, more frequent extreme weather events, decade- or even centurylong droughts, and horrific fires. Just imagine if the most habitable place left on Earth by 2050 looks like Death Valley.

We need to change our approach now, not 10 years or 50 years into the future. Yes, it will cost more money, but cost drives innovation. Would you rather spend your money now to educate your children and grandchildren, but have them live in a dismal future Earth, or spend your money to try to prevent that future?

Key to addressing this problem is that while the cost of cutting back on oil and gas extraction clearly hurts New Mexico, the benefit, from the standpoint of reducing greenhouse gases, is national or even worldwide, so why should New Mexico take the brunt of the pain? The logical solution to my mind would be to tie reductions in oil and gas extraction to compensation from the federal government for the loss in revenue, both from the loss of royalties and the losses associated with a decrease in oil and gas jobs.

Compensation could be made by a combination of direct payments to the state and by moving federal facilities of various kinds, with their associated jobs, to the counties in New Mexico where oil and gas extraction has been reduced. One example would be to move a large fraction of the new Space Force branch of the armed forces to New Mexico, or perhaps a large fraction of NASA operations, either of which makes sense from a variety of perspectives.

Such a program could be expanded to other states with large oil and gas operations, including Texas and South Dakota, which would make this a bipartisan approach and an easier sell in Congress by our New Mexico senators and House members. Let’s get moving!