Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Harness abundant renewables to stifle Putin, the petrostate

We all know the saying: “When you’re stuck in a hole, stop digging.” That’s common sense.

So, when the oil and gas industry predictably yells well-rehearsed “drill, baby, drill” talking points as a response to Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine, I’m not buying it because they’re just telling us to keep digging . Putin derives much of his power from the world’s dependence on oil and gas – global commodities whose price is controlled by such petrostate authoritarians as Putin, alongside oil and gas oligarchs.

The International Energy Agency certainly doesn’t buy it. In March, the IEA published an ambitious, 10-point plan to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas. That plan balances a pragmatic, near-term understanding of the immediate geopolitical security threat with a bold, long-term push to address not only menacing petrostate authoritarians, but also the climate crisis. And it’s animated by a clear and compelling idea: We must invest rapidly in clean, renewable energy and boost efficiency.

The need to move in this direction as swiftly as possible came into stark focus last month. We witnessed immense bravery by the Ukrainian people standing up for their freedom and sovereignty. And we also witnessed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change once again ringing alarm bells that the climate crisis presents a clear and present danger to geopolitical stability and ecological resilience. As the IPCC concluded in its Sixth Assessment Report, the “rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt.”

To many of us, this is as obvious as the rising sun. New Mexico’s annual snowpack is declining and melting earlier and faster than before, degrading the vitality of rivers, streams and acequias, and stressing our farms, ranches and communities that depend on clean water. Each summer, drought and catastrophic wildfire are ever-present threats. And we know, deep in our hearts, that the Land of Enchantment we all love is at risk. These challenges are poised only to intensify.

So, let’s stop digging in that proverbial, fossil fuel-soaked hole. Let’s instead work together to open new doors to a thriving, resilient future. A safer, more secure future is through those doors:

• People and communities with the freedom to choose an economic pathway that is not shackled to an industry that harms the climate, public lands or people.

• New, well-paying opportunities for workers across our state in burgeoning clean, renewable energy industries, as demonstrated by a December 2021 report by Inclusive Economics.

• A stable, diversified base of revenue not dependent on volatile, boom-and-bust global fossil fuel markets, US oil and gas oligarchs, and petrostate authoritarians.

• Rivers and lands that provide abundant clean water and wildlife, stewarded by us, our families and our communities.

• A common purpose that units us as New Mexicans.

Let’s stop digging holes. Let’s instead talk with our neighbors and political leaders, and walk through those new, wide open doors together.

Erik Schlenker-Goodrich is executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center, which has offices in Taos, Santa Fe and throughout the western United States.

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