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Economy Issues Notable News Oil & Gas Top Issues

RGF’s Gessing in National Review: Deb Haaland Could Be a Disaster at Interior

This week, President Biden’s nominee for secretary of the Interior, New Mexico congresswoman Deb Haaland, is up for confirmation in the Senate. Haaland, a self-described “progressive,” and a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, would, if confirmed, become the first Native American to head Interior. The Department manages approximately 500 million acres of surface land, or about one-fifth of the land in the United States.

The agency’s work is of interest to all Americans because it oversees more than 400 National Parks, from Yellowstone to White Sands. However, the department is of particular importance to Westerners, as more than 90 percent of the lands it manages are located in the Western United States.

The nomination of Haaland makes a certain amount of political sense for President Biden, allowing him to place a Native American in a position of leadership over Interior’s vast network of Native reservations. These reservations, including the Navajo Reservation in Northwest New Mexico, remain among the deepest pockets of poverty in the country. The fact that no Native American has ever managed those reservations is indeed worth remedying.

But Interior is a large department with many lands of varying purposes, and Western resource-intensive states including New Mexico have already seen the Biden administration act in ways that will do significant harm to their economies.

At Interior, Deb Haaland would be a cheerleader for Biden’s early anti-energy policies and would likely look for opportunities to expand upon them. She has taken radically anti-fossil-fuel positions throughout her political career. In 2016, prior to being elected to Congress, Haaland traveled to North Dakota to cook food for the protesters demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She stayed in the camps for four days that September.

In May 2019, the newly minted congresswoman told The Guardian, “I am wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public land.”

Are Haaland’s positions and opinions based on sound science and history? In a 2019 Los Alamos Monitor story, Haaland claimed that “climate change in the U.S. started when Europeans arrived and started killing the buffalo.” Considering the numerous, dramatic changes that were a feature of the climate in prehistoric North America (and everywhere else on this planet), Haaland’s understanding of environmental forces is a bit off.

Given her radical views, it is not surprising that Haaland has been a strong supporter of the Green New Deal. The ambitious plan put forth by Represenative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and others would cost trillions in subsidies and lost economic activity. Among the plan’s radical proposals is a mandated shift to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and an increase in the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent.

On day one, the Biden administration pulled the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. While this pipeline won’t directly affect energy-producing states, the cavalier approach to the permit raised red flags. Shortly thereafter, the Biden administration placed a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal lands. If confirmed, Haaland would be a staunch defender of such policies.

Haaland’s home state, New Mexico, is particularly impacted by what happens at Interior. The state has the third-highest Native American population in the U.S. and also happens to be the state most financially dependent on energy produced on federally managed lands within its borders.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, a ban on federal oil and gas leases could cost New Mexico 62,000 jobs, reduce state revenues by $1.1 billion, and reduce oil and gas production within the state by nearly 50 percent.

With Haaland’s nomination up this week and Biden already taking an aggressive anti-energy stance, it is ironic Haaland wasn’t Biden’s first choice for the job.

In fact, according to several New Mexico media outlets, Biden initially offered the position to New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan GrishamOn December 2, media outlets reported that Lujan Grisham had been offered the top job at Interior but turned it down. Lujan Grisham has never stated publicly why she refused the job, although she is just halfway through her first term in a “blue” New Mexico where she likely expects to be reelected in 2022.

As has been the case since the early days of Biden’s run for the White House, identity politics loom large for him. The president seemingly had the Interior secretary set aside to be filled by a Western, female, minority Democrat. A few weeks after Lujan Grisham turned him down, Biden settled on Haaland for the post.

The case for the slot at Interior being based purely on demography is buttressed by the fact that Lujan Grisham and Haaland have very different views regarding federal-land management. While both are New Mexican females (one Hispanic and one Native American), they exemplify opposite wings of the Democratic Party on energy.

From 2013 to 2019, Lujan Grisham represented the same Albuquerque-area congressional district as Haaland does now (Haaland will relinquish the seat if confirmed), and took a practical, moderate view on energy. This moderation is notably reflected in her 2015 vote to repeal the ban on crude-oil exports. She was one of just 26 Democrats in the House voting to repeal, with 153 of them voting to keep the ban in place.

Lujan Grisham continued to express moderation on energy issues when she moved into New Mexico’s Governor’s Mansion in 2019. During her time in office, she has expressed strong support for the state’s oil and gas industry and even said she’d consider asking for a waiver in case of a federal leasing ban.

As a governor concerned about her state’s economic and financial interests (and one who enjoys having oil and gas generate anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of her state’s budget), Lujan Grisham has attempted to placate environmentalists in her political base without doing serious harm to the state’s most important industry. Based on President Biden’s early energy policies, Haaland seems to make a better fit for the administration.

Senator Steve Daines (R., Mont.) has announced his opposition to Haaland’s nomination. Montana’s junior senator signaled he would not only vote against her confirmation, but also attempt to block her nomination from advancing.

“I’m deeply concerned with the Congresswoman’s support on several radical issues that will hurt Montana, our way of life, our jobs and rural America, including her support for the Green New Deal and President Biden’s oil and gas moratorium, as well as her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline,” Daines said in a statement. Is that enough to stop Haaland from taking her radical policies to Department of the Interior? We should all hope so.

 

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Education Legislature Notable News Open Government Top Issues

Independent analysis: New Mexico K-12 school opening rate among slowest in US

As if New Mexico students didn’t already face serious challenges, see this quote from the New York Times (which, to their credit has been pushing for schools to reopen). 

Unfortunately, you can’t embed the map here, but as of Feb. 22, New  Mexico schools are among the least reopened in the entire nation, a situation that is problematic for our State and its future. According to the Burbio data:

New Mexico schools are 21.3% open;
Arizona is 68.6%;
Utah is 90.2%;
Colorado is 77.1%;
Oklahoma is 67.5%;
Texas is 90.8%.

Whether these states spend more or less than New Mexico on K-12 and whether or not they have expensive pre-K programs, every other state in the region is blowing the doors off New Mexico. Of course, our State’s largest school district, Albuquerque Public Schools, has already punted on the entire 2020-2021 school year.

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Education Issues Legislature Notable News Top Issues

Let them play! And let them go to school!

The fact that Albuquerque Public Schools has refused to reopen its doors to students for the duration of the 2020-2021 school year means (under Gov. Lujan Grisham’s COVID 19 rubric) that students at APS schools won’t be able to play sports. This led to protests over the weekend.

Should APS students be able to play sports? Should they be allowed to go back to school? The simple answer is YES to both. For the duration of COVID 19 the Rio Grande Foundation has urged policymakers to maximize individuals’ ability to decide how much risk they are willing to tolerate in going about their lives (or taking COVID precautions).

Ultimately, the problem here is one-size-fits-all policies that put policymakers in charge of decisions for which they simply do not have the capacity to make basic tradeoffs. The one-size-fits-all component transcends COVID. It has been a harmful feature of the government education monopoly for decades.

Of course, private schools have been open throughout the COVID situation. They have both a financial interest in what students and families want (as opposed to what unions want).

 

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Economy Legislature Notable News Tax and Budget Top Issues

While private sector workers lost jobs in droves, New Mexico government employment GREW in 2020

In New Mexico, when politicians talk about “diversifying the economy,” they usually mean “finding new taxes in order to spend more money.”

That’s partially because we have so many state and local government workers (let alone federal employees and contractors). Even a global pandemic can’t stop New Mexico from growing as the map below from The Washington Post shows.

While most other states saw reductions (often major) in state government employment, New Mexico’s already-bloated government workforce grew by 4%. That is tied for the fastest growth in the nation.

Adding insult to injury, while their numbers grew, the Legislative Finance Committee in New Mexico’s Legislature planned to give pay raises to state government employees in the budget currently being discussed in Santa Fe. Gov. Lujan Grisham gave fat pay raises to her inner-circle although (to her credit) the Gov.’s budget DOES NOT have broad based pay hikes.

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Constitution and Criminal Justice Issues Local Government Notable News Top Issues Videos

Is DOJ Settlement Causing Crime Increase in Albuquerque?

KOAT recently did an excellent story detailing problems with the court-ordered agreement with the Department of Justice that the City of Albuquerque has been under for several years now.

The agreement has cost taxpayers $20 million to pay for training, equipment, staffing and a court-appointed monitor and, while it is hard to prove causation, violent crime in the City has increased by 53 percent.

Watch the full story here. Gessing appears at the end of the Story.

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Economy Energy and Environment Legislature Notable News Oil & Gas Top Issues

Hurting the Economy without Helping the Climate? We’ve Got this Inside-Out

In the last month, New Mexico and the United States as a whole have witnessed unprecedented attacks on the traditional energy sector. Nationally, President Biden’s ban — for now, just described as a pause — on new oil and gas leases on federal lands has been well documented. So too has his revoking of the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

While such decisions are undoubtedly popular with radical environmentalists and their well-funded allies, it is hard to see how they — or anyone likely to follow them — will achieve the reductions in CO2 emissions necessary to make any difference to the climate. Look, for example, at the impact of the Keystone XL pipeline decision. With no available pipeline, Canada and its oil producers will simply load their oil onto trains or trucks, relying instead on modes of transport that are more risky and less energy-efficient. Indeed, doing so will involve higher greenhouse-gas emissions than the pipeline would have, especially considering the pipeline developers’ recent promise to use only renewableenergy to operate the project.

Overall, less than 10 percent of American oil and gas comes from federal lands. Cutting production from them won’t have a real impact on producers on private and state lands, nor will it reduce demand for foreign oil. Nevertheless, this new policy could end up inflicting significant economic pain on an already shaky U.S. economy.

Even if a relatively small amount of U.S. oil and gas production comes from federal lands, bans or restrictions there will have a disproportionate effect on a good number of states and their economies (like my own in New Mexico). Half of New Mexico’s oil and gas production — much of it fracked — is on federal land. Long-term curtailment of oil and gas drilling on federal lands would devastate the state’s budget.

Not to be outdone by the Biden administration, the Democrat-dominated legislature here in “deep blue” New Mexico is considering a number of proposals of their own. (Mind you, the state is one of the poorest in the Union and, thanks to fracking, is the country’s third-largest oil producer.) Chief among them is legislation that would require all new construction (homes and schools) in New Mexico to incorporate solar panels and mandate that 75 percent of all state-government vehicles be electric-only. Another bill would require dramatic reductions in “carbon intensity” for vehicles purchased by everyday New Mexicans. The technology to reduce carbon-intensity of New Mexico vehicles is left unsaid because the regulation would oblige fuel producers to work this out for themselves.

Writing for the Albuquerque Journal, two Democratic state legislators explained the proposals:

By requiring fuel providers that refine, blend, make or import fuel used in New Mexico to gradually reduce the carbon intensity of the transportation fuel itself, we can reduce emissions by 4.7 million metric tons in carbon dioxide equivalent by 2040. That’s like taking 44,000 cars off the road every year for 15 years. A clean fuel standard would not apply to retail gas stations or cause cost increases at the pump.

Yet, the heavy-handed, economy-killing efforts in New Mexico and in various state capitals across the country will do little to rein in global CO2 emissions. In fact, CO2 emissions are already being curbed in the United States through a combination of market forces and government policies. The real problem is that emissions are exploding elsewhere, most notably in China.

In late 2020, Forbes noted that U.S. CO2 emissions already comply with the Paris agreement. Goosed by an 11 percent drop in CO2 emissions in 2020 due to COVID-19–induced travel reductions, the United States has seen emissions drop since the mid 1980s. Nowadays, despite a population that is 40 percent larger than it was in the mid 1980s, U.S. CO2emissions are approximately the same as they were back then. This is a remarkable feat.

Indeed, the combination of a long-term shift in electricity generation from coal to natural gas (in no small part thanks to fracking), along with the energy efficiency generated both by market competition and regulatory pressure, fuel-mileage mandates, and the Clean Air Act, have made the United States a more CO2-efficient national economy.

China, on the other hand, is not just rapidly increasing CO2 emissions, it is massively expanding coal-fired electricity production. According to Voice of America, “China put 38.4 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired power capacity into operation in 2020, more than three times the amount built elsewhere around the world and potentially undermining its short-term climate goals.”

Furthermore, according to research released on Wednesday by Global Energy Monitor, China’s coal-fired fleet capacity rose by a net 29.8 GW in 2020 (including decommissions), even as the rest of the world made cuts of 17.2 GW.

China, which still has millions of citizens living in real poverty, certainly has a right to develop its economy. But if the Biden administration is serious about addressing climate change, it ought to use the bully pulpit to cajole China to move toward lower CO2 intensity. After all, China is already the global “leader,” with CO2 emissions approximately doubling those of the United States. Those emissions rose even during the pandemic year of 2020.

Even if the Biden administration and states such as New Mexico make a concerted and focused effort to reduce CO2emissions (an open question to say the least), the United States won’t be able to halt climate change. Any CO2reduction we make is only displaced by a doubling from China, who seems more serious about developing its own economy than the Biden administration and many “blue” states like New Mexico are about theirs.

President Joe Biden and New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham telling us to pay more for energy while destroying thousands of energy jobs is a hard pill to swallow even if we were to make serious progress toward achieving our climate goals. But to do immense damage to the U.S. and New Mexico economies while allowing American progress on CO2 emissions to be undermined by our economic and geopolitical rivals in China is woefully misbegotten.

Image result for china coal plant

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Legislature Notable News Open Government Top Issues

Good/Bad/Ugly of NM’s “Virtual” 2021 Session (to date)

New Mexico’s 2021 session is truly unprecedented. The Rio Grande Foundation has been involved in the New Mexico Legislature for more than a decade, but we’ve never seen anything like the  locked down 2021 legislative session.

While we find the locked-down nature of the session has hugely-problematic, many Democrats have claimed that the “virtual” session has allowed new participants into the process.

Here’s our take on the good, bad, and ugly of the virtual 2021 session:

Good: Not commuting to Santa Fe. Unless you are from Santa Fe, not having to make your way to the Capitol is a good thing. An hour in the car each way from Albuquerque is nothing compared to up to 5 hours one way from other parts of our State. Of course, “Zoom” technology has been around for years, there is no doubt that if the Legislature was serious about hearing new voices they could have done (and we asked for) YEARS ago.

As the head of an organization that cares about a large number of bills, it is easier to track and engage with the large number of bills in committee during a “virtual” session.

BAD: Simply put, most of the useful information exchanged between legislators, advocates, and lobbyists during a legislative session comes outside of committee hearings in the halls and “lobbies” of the Roundhouse where frank, private conversations can be had and information exchanged. That is being missed and we won’t know how badly it is missed until the laws passed this session take effect.

Also, not having the Legislature open to the public just FEELS bad. Behind a chain link fence and with no public access to the people or the process, the Roundhouse goes from “the people’s house” to “no trespassing” very quickly. It really defies New Mexico values and the accessibility people once had to the process (hopefully they do again).

UGLY: Without the public in attendance and watching, will this fully “progressive” legislature feel empowered to pass any number of policies? Obviously, the last election provided the legislative majorities they need to push whatever they want. Will they hold back due to the pandemic’s impacts, budgetary uncertainty, or electoral concerns? We won’t know the answer to that until late March when the session is over.

 

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Economy Legislature Notable News Tax and Budget Taxes Top Issues

Bill Richardson’s tax cuts WERE a success!

It has now become an article of faith on the left in New Mexico that Gov. Bill Richardson’s 2003 tax cuts were a failure.Several tax hike bills including (at least) two that would raise New Mexico’s personal income tax rate have been introduced this session including:

SB 56: Sen. Bill O’Neill’s bill to increase New Mexico’s top personal income tax rate to 8.2% (the bill was heard in Senate Tax on Thursday);

SB 89: Sen. Bill Tallman’s bill to increase New Mexico’s top personal income tax rate to 6.5%;

You MAY recall that the Richardson cuts took New Mexico’s top income tax rate from 8.2% down to 4.9% over 5 years where it was until 2019. The cuts ALSO cut capital gains tax rates in half. These were REAL tax cuts and they passed the Democrat-controlled House without a single dissenting vote and passed the Senate by a margin of 39 to 2 and were signed into law on Valentine’s Day, 2003.

Richardson and Were Richardson’s tax cuts REALLY a failure? No. In fact, none other than the liberal “fact checking” site PolitiFact said that Richardson’s job creation claims (made in advance of his 2008 reelection campaign) were “mostly true.”

As PolitiFact noted in 2007,

Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that New Mexico gained 75,800 jobs from December 2002 to July 2007, which is slightly lower than Richardson’s claim.

As our friends at FactCheck.org note in this article , Richardson has consistently cited the higher number, even when the actual number was lower.

For our ruling, however, we’ll rely on the current 75,800 and call it mostly true.

PolitiFact further quoted none other than NMSU economist (one of NM’s top economic gurus) Jim Peach approvingly.

Peach said Richardson’s tax incentives and income tax cuts have created a favorable atmosphere for business that is a stark change from the state’s mentality in the mid-1970s, when state officials refused to provide help to a promising young company named Microsoft.

The climate here has changed considerably since then, Peach said. Bill Richardson has been a big part of that. He’s not the whole story, but he’s been a big part of it.

The fact is that if Richardson were governor today he would be too conservative for New Mexico’s Democratic Party on both guns and taxes.

 

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Education Local Government Notable News Top Issues

Tracking New Mexico School District Reopening

The Rio Grande Foundation has long called for basic education reforms that would empower parents and families when it comes to education resources including school choice. But, with the onset of COVID 19 and many districts moving to “virtual only” models, we have joined the Centers for Disease Control and many others in calling for students to return to their classrooms.

We will be tracking announced school reopenings under Gov. Lujan Grisham’s latest orders which call for hybrid learning for ALL students to begin on February 8. Check this space for updates. We gleaned this information from various district and news websites. If you have new info please let us know at: info@riograndefoundation.org

DistrictDate
AlamogordoSecondary – Feb. 16, Elementary – Feb. 22
AlbuquerqueDelayed decision
ArtesiaFeb. 8
BloomfieldSome primary students in hybrid already, Secondary – Feb. 16
CarlsbadFeb. 8
CentralSecondary – Feb. 16
CloudcroftPrimary already in-person, Secondary – Feb. 9
ClovisPre-K-5th already in hybrid, other grades under consideration
CubaRemote through March 5
EstanciaSecondary – Feb. 8
FarmingtonPrimary already hybrid, 6th, 9th graders – Feb 8, Other secondary Feb. 16
Fort SumnerMiddle, High school – Feb. 8
Gallup-McKinleyAll grades — Feb. 9
HobbsElementary – Feb. 8, 6th, 9th, 10th grade – Feb. 11-12, all students – Feb. 16
Las CrucesWill allow students who need in-person, but delayed broader reopening
Las VegasWill remain virtual throughout the rest of the school year
Magdalena6th-12th grade – Feb. 8
PortalesAll grades — Feb. 9
Rio RanchoElementary students have been in hybrid model. No broader plan yet
RoswellWill restart this month, no date yet
Santa FeAll grades — Feb. 22
SilverMiddle, High school – Feb. 15-18
Truth or ConsequencesAll students Feb. 16
TucumcariAll students Feb. 8
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Economy Energy and Environment Issues Notable News Oil & Gas Top Issues Uncategorized

RGF’s Gessing appears on Institute for Energy Research Podcast to discuss the role of oil & gas in New Mexico’s economy

Shortly before the Biden Administration imposed a moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal lands, the Foundation’s president Paul Gessing joined the Institute for Energy Research podcast to discuss New Mexico’s energy portfolio and what possible consequences the state could face from a ban on hydraulic fracturing instituted by the Biden administration.

Click below to listen: