The New Mexico way

Source: BY MATTHEW CHOI, Politico • Posted: Monday, April 18, 2022

Mexico has quietly — and quickly — become the second largest oil producing state in the country. And while Democrats who control most state offices there are eager to boast about their state’s rapid clean energy growth, they are wary of national party and environmentalists groups’ calls to eliminate fossil fuels that could turn off a lot of the state’s voters, POLITICO’s Ben Lefebvre and Josh Siegel report.

New Mexico produced more than 10 percent of the total U.S. oil output in January, and more than a third of the state’s budget in recent years has come from oil and gas royalties on state lands. The oil and gas industry is also a principal employer in the state, particularly in the south. That’s forced Democrats there to take a different approach than many of their colleagues in other states.

“Environmentalists can be out of touch that a typical person here in New Mexico is trying to put food on their table and thinking about how to pay their bills,” New Mexico state Rep. Angelica Rubio. “When they hear a [call for an oil] ban, that means an end of the job. My effort as a legislator has been to find what the middle ground is.”

Democrats in the state know better than to set their fossil fuel production against their renewable energy sector, which has seen significant growth in the past few years. Solar and wind capacity are now triple what they were in January 2019.

But that doesn’t mean Democrats are betting their future on fossil fuels, since the state’s revenues can swing wildly with oil markets, New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard said, and there needs to be more sustainable long-term plans to keep the state’s budget healthy.