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 V.17 No.17 | April 24 - 30, 2008 

The Real Side

The City Hypocritical

On oil and Santa Fe

As they battle the evil oil monster, opponents of energy exploration near Santa Fe drape the green cape of environmentalism around their shoulders. Underneath they wear a body stocking knit with threads of hypocrisy.

Many of the anti-oil activists live around the Galisteo Basin, the area Tecton Energy wants to explore. Rather than occupy modest quarters inside city limits where they could leave a smaller carbon footprint, many of these activists have fed the sprawl gobbling up the countryside. Starting with McMansions in the Eldorado subdivision, they’ve pushed roads and utilities into land that will never again qualify for the adjective “pristine.”

These activists didn’t oppose the residential developments into which they have moved. They didn’t fight the roads leading to their front doors. I doubt any activist has submitted reclamation plans for plots occupied by their patios and driveways. And, of course, many drilling opponents use cars, trucks and SUVs every day, including driving to protests against the oil industry.

More than real threats to the natural environment, what concerns these activists are threats to inflated property values and Santa Fe’s self-image as superior to communities where energy is produced.

Though the City Different can’t see itself as an oil and gas town, that’s what it is. Hydrocarbons power the commuters clogging St. Francis Drive. “Santa Fe style” would be misery in December without heat from natural gas. Even for the area’s few people living off the grid, their imported windmills are delivered on semis burning diesel and traveling highways sealed with oil.

They didn’t fight the roads leading to their front doors.

Oil makes Santa Fe’s tourist industry possible. Not a single tourist dollar would be spent on the Plaza if not for the petroleum and jet fuel combusted to carry visitors to northern New Mexico.

Santa Fe’s other big employer, state government, drinks heartily from oil and gas wells. About $2.6 billion of New Mexico’s $6 billion budget comes from oil and gas leases, royalties, and interest from the portion of the state’s permanent fund contributed by the industry. The oil and gas industry has created 23,000 jobs. Those workers kick in good chunks of their paychecks for Santa Fe’s public buildings and the state employees inside.

Tecton estimates 50 million to 100 million barrels of oil can be recovered from Galisteo Basin. Drilling opponents scoff, claiming this volume, even if it exists, would slake but a few days of the nation’s oil thirst. Try plugging all the gasoline pumps across America for a single day. We’d quickly understand how invaluable this “limited” resource might be.

Santa Fe could nobly refuse all petro tax dollars and demonstrate how to get by without oil from its surroundings or anywhere else. That ain’t gonna happen. Santa Fe will continue to burn oil and gas revenue, as well as hydrocarbons produced in third-world countries and less tony communities in our state.

We hear Santa Fe liberals and political progressives tout commitment to environmental justice. That ideal is mocked when the only way they share in the costs of energy production is by whipping out a credit card.

Santa Feans say they’re thinking globally about climate change. Then they should act locally in energy production. The carbon footprint of BTUs produced from our own soil is far less than a barrel of oil transported from the Middle East.

Further, the more energy we produce in America, the less we entangle ourselves in dangerous countries where we are hated. As well as increasing efficiency and promoting new technologies, “No blood for oil” means doing more to satisfy our needs from resources within our nation’s borders.

Santa Fe can set an example for responsible hydrocarbon production. Santa Fe will not be destroyed, as hyperbolic activists claim, if Tecton extracts energy from the same area that has yielded coal, turquoise, gold and silver. Concerns about polluting the aquifer are proving overblown. New technologies permit oil extraction to occur smoothly near human populations. Wildlife can thrive around pump jacks, certainly more easily than within residential subdivisions. Always, there is room for improvement. Santa Fe could lead the way.

A moratorium has halted developments. Regulations are being updated. Hopefully, Santa Fe will not rig the process to make drilling impossible and provoke a costly takings claim from Tecton. If that occurs, the rest of the state should give not one penny for Santa Fe’s defense.

Tecton pledges to employ the best technology and practices in exploring Galisteo Basin. Santa Fe should accept Tecton’s offer, then hold them to their word.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. E-mail jims@alibi.com.

 

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