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 Jun 6 - 12, 2019 
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On Assignment

Freedom Is a Gas

Renewables make inroads while dinosaurs dig in

By
Methane Flare, Navajo Nation
Methane Flare, Navajo Nation
John Fowler via Grand Canyon Trust

The City of Albuquerque is preparing to make the great leap forward—away from fossil fuels forever—unless the backlash to Mayor Keller’s successful progressive agenda includes the election of a right-wing oil company executive like former City Councilor Dan Lewis.

That’s not likely to happen, by the way. Lewis didn’t do it for voters in 2017; in the subsequent 2018 election, Democrats and progressives with a vision of renewable energy use captured the hearts of New Mexicans.

The current administration appears to have staying power—despite big faux pas like dealing with the ART aftermath and allowing the State Police to operate in the city without having to comply with the DOJ settlement and some local laws. Add a City Council that supports the Mayor’s left-leaning strides and you have the perfect recipe for reelection and continued progress.

So, Albuquerque will turn toward renewable energy sources like solar to power its operations beginning immediately and continuing until most of the electrical infrastructure supporting the physical manifestation of the entity known as the City of Albuquerque comes from the sun.

PNM seemingly jumped joyfully onto the renewables bandwagon by striking a deal with the city that will make accessing and using alternative energy sources like solar easier to acquire and use. This latest announcement comes as the governor goes full force toward promoting anagenda that clearly charts a course away from coal. PNM was also on board with the state’s new Energy Transition Act; that can mean only one of two things. Either the utility and its heavily Republican board of directors has gone native or they smell money leaking out of all those solar collectors and wind turbines. Your guess is as good as mine.

But amidst all this ostensible progress, it becomes clear that for this city and its citizens, for this state—and every conceivable, superseding territorial descriptive that moves one up the list from personal to universal—there is much more work to be done. To ensure that we are weaned off the poisonous dinosaur juice teat that currently chokes our collective progress, we must move towards an end of use for natural gas. The problem is not much research is being done on a post-gas America; homes, housing and urban scenes are still being designed with gas lines in mind and even big public transportation systems utilize natural gas to run buses.

The Gas

Using solar power to provide power for city enterprises, buildings and other physical structures is a damn good idea. Coming up with a plan to transition the state’s electrical transmission grid from dependence on coal-burning plants to sustained reliance on large-scale wind farms is visionary.

Interestingly though, such conversion visions ignore the massive extent to which natural gas is used for home heating in the Western and Southwestern United States, as well as the subsequent high value of natural gas mining operations in driving the economies of states like New Mexico.

Oil and gas production in the state of New Mexico netted The Land of Enchantment a whopping $2.2 billion dollars last year. That’s a lot of feria, and it’s an increase of more than $450 million over the previous year. As a direct result of those monetary gains, Albuquerque Public Schools got $205 million and UNM was allocated $60 million, according to a New Mexico Tax Institute white paper published earlier this year.

What’s more, New Mexico is one of the top 10 states in the nation, per capita, for natural gas consumption, and yet the state manages to produce more gas than it consumes, supplying much of the gas used in Arizona. Less than 20 percent of the natural gas mined in New Mexico stays in the state. Interestingly and ironically, analysis by the US Energy Information Administration also showed that the Number One consumer of natural gas in this state is none other than the electric power sector.

Freedom

Now natural gas—a thing long commodified by earthy capitalists who now have to dig deeper and more violently than ever to get to this gaseous gold—is being propagandized by the Trump administration. In an official publication from the Department of Energy released just last week, the floaty hydrocarbon heating and cooling molecules were referred to as “freedom gas.” It turns out the stuff has been branded as a cool tool in the eternal struggle for democracy. Commenting on these fierce phenomena, an undersecretary at the Department wrote, “With the US in another year of record-setting natural gas production, I am pleased that the Department of Energy is doing what it can to promote an efficient regulatory system that allows for molecules of US freedom to be exported to the world.”

And after that, heaps of methane, rising temperatures, unstable weather patterns, melting sea ice, species die-offs and a planet of people that have decided on solar and wind energy but still haven’t figured out a way to tell the terrible oily and gaseous giants seated at the table that it’s really time to go.


 
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