According to Michelle Lujan Grisham’s “Energy Transition Act” of 2019, the state of New Mexico’s electricity is supposed to be “carbon-free” by the year 2045. Just one of the consequences will be the shuttering of the San Juan coal-fired power generation facility. Coal or natural gas-fueled electricity sources are considered in the industry to be dispatchable, that is, available on-demand. These coal-fired kilowatts are scheduled to be replaced by wind generators and solar panels, which are obviously available only when the wind is blowing or sun is shining. When neither is occurring, either backup batteries, a new natural gas-fired facility, or “purchased power” are supposed to make up the difference.
If the difference is not made up, the lights go out.
This scenario is exactly what is happening in California, the state that has most aggressively pursued similar public policy. There, rolling brownouts or outright blackouts have become ever more common, alongside steep price increases that are more than double the least expensive electricity in the nation. We in New Mexico are headed in the same direction, with average residential utility rates up 4 percent just since 2020 and power shortages already being predicted for as early as next summer.
Now comes the Governor’s “clean fuel standard.” It is predicted that this legislation will be placed on the call for consideration, either in the special session upcoming in December or in next January’s regular 30-day session.
The combustion of 1 gallon of gasoline generates a bit over 19 pounds of CO2. Because transportation motor fuels have been highly optimized over the last 100 years, there is little room for improvement in this ratio.
The total CO2 emissions from transportation last year in the State were approximately 14 million metric tons (mTs) where a metric ton is 1000 kilograms or, about 2200 pounds. The Governor, according to her environment department, is aiming for a 50 percent emissions reduction, or 7 million mTs. How is that to be achieved? Frankly, in the real world, it is not possible.
The lack of science notwithstanding, the Governor’s answer is with a government-created commodity called a “carbon” or “renewable energy” credit. These credits are generated by processes believed to have a carbon intensity less than the 19 pounds per gallon generated by gasoline. They can be accumulated and sold and are usually priced by the mT. In California for example an mT carbon credit is worth $200.
The very bad news is if that number holds true and a 50 percent reduction is the target, the math would predict a cost increase to the New Mexico consumer of almost $0.90 per gallon of gasoline.
An extra $0.90 per gallon environmental “tax” is a significant sacrifice for families in a large, poor State where many people are required to drive long distances to work. The benefits absolutely do not justify the costs. With a completely successful program, the results of this policy will amount to a 0.02% reduction in worldwide CO2 emissions. This is less than a rounding error when it comes to impacting climate change.
If we cannot alter the course of climate change, we must develop public policy to enable adaptation. We must give our citizens the tools, the education, and the prosperity to overcome and adapt to whatever changes in climate may occur. Instead, our Governor is choosing to make New Mexicans less equipped, less educated, and less prosperous. Shame on her.