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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:

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RGF’s Paul Gessing talks New Mexico politics and policy w/ Mick Rich

The following conversation between RGF president Paul Gessing and Mick Rich (former US Senate candidate and owner of a construction business) aired on local television in Albuquerque, NM recently. It is split into four segments of about 10 minutes apiece.

In the first segment Mick and Paul discuss health care reforms made under ObamaCare, why it has failed, and how Biden plans to move forward with the same government-driven philosophy.

In segment two we discuss the evolution and economics of New Mexico’s film industry and its oil and gas industry.

In the third segment we discuss some of the crime issues at play in the City of Albuquerque.

In this segment we discuss the upcoming 2021 legislative session, the Rail Runner, Spaceport, and five things the Legislature SHOULD do to bring prosperity to our state.

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Haaland would be far to the left of Lujan Grisham on energy

UPDATE: Per several news reports, Haaland HAS indeed been chosen to head the US Department of the Interior.

New Mexico women appear to have the inside track in the Biden Administration for Interior Secretary. The post was apparently offered to Gov. Lujan Grisham who turned it down. Now, Albuquerque-area Congresswoman Deb Haaland is being promoted for the job by none other than Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

We at the Rio Grande Foundation have been critics of Lujan Grisham’s economic and COVID policies, but on energy issues, Lujan Grisham is actually a moderate while Haaland is on the far-left wing when it comes to energy issues. If implemented, her stated policies would be a disaster for New Mexico and other energy producing states.

Haaland told The Guardian, “I am wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public lands,” she said. She is also a staunch supporter of the Green New Deal.” According to a recent study of the issue, “New Mexico would see even steeper revenue losses under the study’s forecasts. The state would lose on average $946 million per year in oil and gas tax revenue in the first five years under a lease moratorium, and on average $1.2 billion per year in tax revenue in the first five years under a drilling ban.”

Lujan Grisham, on the other hand, voted FOR crude oil exports when she was in Congress. She also has said that she’ll ask for an exemption from any future drilling ban (on federal lands). While Lujan Grisham has said that New Mexico would “transition away from fossil fuels” and she even signed New Mexico’s own version of a “Green New Deal,” she is nowhere near as radical as Deb Haaland when it comes to energy.

If Haaland becomes Secretary of the Interior, energy-producing Western states better watch out!

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On energy policy Biden should take his cues from Obama

The following appeared recently in several New Mexico newspapers including the Carlsbad Current-Argus:


As states near the election certification date it appears the exact contours of the Biden Administration’s energy policies and how they will impact New Mexico remain open to debate. We must make sure that we don’t lose sight of how important natural gas has been in powering America’s economic resurgence and leading the charge to a cleaner environment.

Candidate Biden made numerous conflicting statements about his likely energy policies including on the issue of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” which enables oil and gas producers to access previously inaccessible oil and gas sources. Elimination of this important process, even on “just” federal lands would have devastating impacts on New Mexico’s oil and gas industry and its economy.

During the campaign Biden repeatedly pledged not to lease any more federal land for oil and gas production. That pledge, with its potential to cast irreparable damage on our economy, got the attention of Democratic Governor Michel Lujan-Grisham. Last year the Governor wasted no time in announcing she would apply for a waiver or exemption for New Mexico on a federal ban aimed at crippling the oil and gas industry’s ability to fund public education. Gov. Lujan-Grisham should maintain this position and make sure New Mexico is allowed to continue our development of natural gas on public land.

Biden’s old boss, President Obama also understood the need to support oil and gas activity in oil and gas states, particularly activity surrounding natural gas. Obama was of course considered an environmentalist by political opponents and supporters alike. His support for natural gas was hardly contradictory, rather it was right in line with his environmental track record. That’s because natural gas emits CO2 at rates from 50 to 60% lower than does coal. 

In fact, the Energy Information Administration recently found that “U.S. electric power sector emissions have fallen 33% from their peak in 2007.” This was no coincidence or accident. These emissions reductions occurred because electricity consumers have increasingly sourced natural gas instead of coal. This progress would be reversed as a result of a federal leasing ban.

When it comes to energy and the benefits of home-grown natural gas resources, Biden should take his cue from former President Obama and the expressed wishes of Gov. Lujan Grisham. New Mexico energy, produced on federal, state, and private lands, can and should play an integral role in ongoing reductions to CO2 emissions.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility

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Biden Energy Policies Will Make Blue New Mexico See Red

The following appeared at National Review’s website on December 1, 2020 6:30 AM

The former territorial governor of New Mexico (and author of Ben Hur) Lew Wallace once said, “Every calculation based on experience elsewhere fails in New Mexico.”

In so many ways Wallace was prescient about this beautiful, poor, and utterly unique state in the American Southwest. One “calculation” about modern politics that would perplex Wallace is the fact that a relatively poor, but oil-rich Western state elects politicians that are so directly at odds with its economic best interest.

After Texas and North Dakota, New Mexico is the 3rd– state in the US. The oil and gas industries combine to generate Furthermore, New Mexico’s oil and gas resources are heavily concentrated on lands managed by the federal government. The central role of energy, especially energy extracted within New Mexico’s borders and controlled by federal policymakers, might lead one to believe that New Mexicans would vote for pro-energy Republicans in federal elections.

Instead, New Mexico has become a safely blue state. It narrowly went for George W. Bush in 2004, but since then has gone for Democrats by wide margins. The situation is even more stark at the state level where Democrats have had “trifectas” (total control of both houses and the Governor’s mansion for 60 of the last 90 years. The GOP hasn’t had such governing authority in the State for a single year since 1931. Also, despite significant turnover, New Mexico has not elected a Republican to the US Senate since Pete Domenici retired in 2009. In 2020 Biden won the State 54.3 percent to 43.5 percent despite the very real fact that President Trump’s pro-energy policies were a boon to the New Mexico economy and the Biden Administration’s energy policies represents nothing less than a dagger aimed at the heart of New Mexico’s economy.

That “dagger” comes in the form of numerous, sometimes clear, often conflicting statements, candidate Biden made during the campaign. It is unclear what Biden will do regarding hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” which enables oil and gas producers to access previously-inaccessible oil and gas sources. He backed away from an outright nationwide ban late in the campaign. However, Biden has clearly stated that he would ban new gas and oil permits — including fracking — on federal lands.

Targeting federal lands would devastate New Mexico’s oil and gas industry and its economy due to the State’s large federal estate within its borders. According to the Institute for Energy Research, federal land represents 34.7 percent of the land in New Mexico. In fiscal year 2019, New Mexico received energy-related disbursement (from the federal Bureau of Land Management) at $1.17 billion, the highest payment made in any state (Wyoming was next with $641 million, and then Colorado on $108 million) This was the highest payment from the BLM in the state’s history and compares with $455 million in FY 2017. A vast majority of this increased revenue is due to the use of fracking.

Furthermore, data from the Global Energy Institute indicate that if energy production on federal lands were banned, New Mexico would lose 24,300 jobs (10,000 direct, 14,300 indirect and induced), a significant hit for a state with a workforce of around ). Making matters worse, a good number of the ‘direct’ jobs lost are good-paying, something that is not easy to find in New Mexico, a state that consistently ranks among the poorest in the nation and has been hard-hit by the  Closing New Mexico’s federal lands to energy production entirely  cost the State $496 million in annual royalty collections, representing eight percent of the state’s total General Fund Revenues.

Biden’s proposed fracking ban is even too much for New Mexico’s Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has said she’ll ask for an exemption from any future drilling ban. Acknowledging the tax revenue contributions to education funding, Grisham explained to the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association conference in Santa Fe last October that “without the energy effort in this state, no one gets to make education the top priority.”

Far from being an opponent, Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, is broadly supportive of Biden’s energy policies. Both of them have stated that they would like to “transition out of fossil fuels” despite New Mexico’s financial dependence on the Industry.

Biden’s aggressive anti-fossil fuels stance as relates to federal land not only puts him at odds with New Mexico’s Democratic governor (who is also on the short list to join his administration), it puts him far to the left of President Obama on the issue. In a 2012 presidential debate, Obama  stated, “We’ve opened up public lands.  We’re actually drilling more on public lands than the previous administration… And natural gas isn’t just appearing magically; we’re encouraging it and working with the industry.”

President Obama was of course considered an environmentalist by political opponents and supporters alike. His support for natural gas right isn’t difficult to reconcile with his environmental track record. That’s because (when used in a new power plant) natural gas emits CO2 at rates from 50 to 60 percent  than does coal.

Obama understood the vast benefits of natural gas, including the fact that it was appropriate to drill for it on federal lands. During his tenure, from approximately 21 million cubic feet to more than 28.4 million cubic feet.

If he truly cares about the environment, Biden would be wise to follow his predecessor’s playbook. According to the EPA, more natural gas meant net greenhouse gas emissions went down by 10 percent  from 2005 to 2018.  But if natural gas prices rise – and a ban on federal leasing is likely to contribute to higher prices, this  positive developments could go into reverse.  The Energy Information Administration recently projected that higher natural gas prices would cause coal’s share of power generation to increase from 18 percent to 22 percent in 2021.

Obama also signed into law legislation that ended the US government’s restrictions on crude oil exports back in 2015.

During the campaign Biden faced tremendous pressure from the left wing of his political base to come out for policies like the Green New Deal and bans on fracking and other fossil fuel based energy production. Biden has never been associated with such hard-left stances against economic policy and growth in the past. As noted above, even Obama is to the right of where Biden campaigned.

Hopefully President Biden has a more realistic approach to energy than did candidate Biden. New Mexico’s economic future is at stake, but so is the recovery of our nation’s virus-hobbled economy.

Rather than instituting a blanket ban on production of oil and gas on federal lands, a better approach would be to recognize the benefits, and work to make sure that any production is handled responsibly and safely. The growing American energy sector and American energy independence have delivered wins for the environment, for consumers, and for the US and state economies like New Mexico’s. Let’s keep it that way.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility

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Time for an update on Michelle Lujan Grisham’s MPG mandate

The following appeared in the Farmington Daily-Times on October 7 and several other newspapers.

Recently, California Gov. Gavin Newsom made headlines with his announcement that by 2035 his State will ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles. That is an ambitious goal, but given the time line, it is hard to say what compliance will look like.

But for another, arguably even more ambitious car mileage proposal, one need look no further than New Mexico. Las September New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham announced that by just model year 2022 New Mexico would be increasing its fuel economy requirement for new cars to 52 MPG. The current average fuel economy rate is 25.1 MPG according to the EPA. 

As we noted at the time, Gov. Lujan Grisham (at the time) had “out California-ed California” by adopting even more stringent fuel economy standards than those on the books in California.

Will California’s decision spur Lujan Grisham to action? Perhaps more importantly, is New Mexico REALLY going through with the Gov.’s 52 MPG standard? This was put forth at a time of a record (oil-driven) economic boom in New Mexico. That boom has evaporated thanks to COVID 19 and the Gov.’s lockdown of the State’s economy. She MAY not be as enthusiastic about such radical plans at a time of serious economic challenges.

If you’re expecting to find legislation on this topic from the 2020 legislative session, don’t worry, nothing was even introduced. We have never even seen a formal executive order from the Gov. formalizing this requirement. In fact, after the initial round of media discussion (led off by the New York Times) the issue has been completely forgotten about.

And just to be clear, if the Gov. completely backed away from her plan, we would be more than happy to support such a move. The number of automobiles on the market right now that achieve such a standard is limited to about a dozen or so hybrid models. Considering that “light trucks” now account for 69 percent of the new car market, getting to that 52 MPG average is going to require one or more of the following:

  1. Unforeseen, drastic changes in automobile purchasing patterns among New Mexicans result in few trucks and more fuel-efficient vehicles being purchased;
  2. Massive taxpayer subsidies will have to be handed out to support the purchase of small/hybrid vehicles and massive taxes will be levied on larger vehicles and trucks.
  3. Large numbers of New Mexicans purchasing their vehicles in neighboring states and bringing them home (thus devastating New Mexico car dealerships and the State economy).

As much as our Governor desperately wants to virtue signal to radical environmental groups who so strongly support her, attaining 52 MPG is simply not realistic by 2022. California’s Gov. at least had the good sense to impose his regulations long after he will be out of office, but unless Biden wins the White House and picks her for a position in his Administration, she will have to make some hard decisions about whether to comply with this mandate (or not).

Perhaps it is already a forgotten promise that she never intended to honor in the first place? If so, that is certainly fine with us, but it would seem that New Mexicans should be given an honest explanation so they know what to plan for or expect the next time they walk into a car dealership.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility

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RGF recent radio appearances

This has been a big week for the Rio Grande Foundation on the air. Paul recently sat down with Bob Clark of KKOB 96.3FM. You can find that show here. Bob and Paul discuss numerous topics from the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her legacy as well as well as Paul’s family’s efforts to home school their children.

Paul also sat down with Jim Williams at KNKT Radio 107.1 FM. We discussed numerous issues in their discussion. You can listen to that discussion at the link above or by clicking on the image below.

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California electricity woes a warning for New Mexico

Electricity and where it comes from is a very “hot” issue these days.

The following appeared in the Las Cruces Sun News on August 23, 2020

As with so many political issues of the left, California has put itself on the very edge when it comes to following the green agenda. It should come as no surprise, given the State’s “deep blue” politics, that California has some of the most aggressive renewable energy goals in the United States. As has been widely reported in the media, Californians are experiencing electricity shortages due in part to a heat wave hitting the State.

But, it is not just the heat, it is also the lack of reliability of these “green” power sources. And New Mexico is not far behind when it comes to mandating them. If it continues to follow California as mandated by the Gov., Legislature, and the PRC, we might see some of the very same problems as California has.

In California the law requires utilities to obtain at least 33% of its electricity from renewable resources. New Mexico is currently at 20% “renewable” but the Energy Transition Act (passed in 2019) requires 50% carbon-free electricity by 2030 and the Public Regulation Commission just required PNM to go with 100% “renewable” electricity in the future.

Will battery technology improve enough by the time New Mexico’s mandates are fully implemented to avert what is happening right now in California? PNM strongly supported the Energy Transition Act and its “renewable” mandates, but they have expressed concerns about grid reliability  as the PRC pushes them to embrace 100% “renewable” electricity generation. Only time will tell how that works out for PNM and its ratepayers, but how about El Paso Electric which serves Las Cruces?

As of December 2017, El Paso Electric’s generation mix was 36.6% natural gas and 48.7% nuclear with only 2.8% of their overall mix coming from “renewables.” The balance comes from various fuel sources and falls into the category of “purchased” power the exact provenance is not explained to the public.

The point is that El Paso Electric is going to be in for a massive shift in power generation sources in advance of the 2030 requirement that half of their power comes from “renewables.” And, while nuclear is “zero-carbon” and in many ways the most environmentally-friendly source of electricity, that is not how the radical environmental-left sees it.

In fact, given dim view of nuclear power on the part of radical environmentalists, it would seem likely that El Paso Electric could be forced to replace more than 3/4ths of its electricity generation within the next two decades. That is going to be expensive from a ratepayer perspective. California, a state with an ideal climate and many energy generation options, has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation with just 33% of its electricity coming from “renewables.”

As the mandated “renewable” percentage goes up, reliability and affordability will be increasingly problematic for both California and New Mexico ratepayers. As we have seen this summer in California, reliability becomes a challenge long before the 100% “renewable” targets kick in. Getting a steady supply of electricity produced at reasonable prices to customers when they want it may look easy, but it isn’t.

El Paso Electric actually has a rather “green” electricity generation portfolio that relies heavily on zero-carbon nuclear and natural gas which has half the CO2 emissions of coal. This was driven by mostly market decisions, not government mandates. Those “green” credentials will likely not placate the “environmental” movement and it will be Las Cruces ratepayers and the reliability of their power grid that take the hit.

For further information on California’s lighting regulations, click here.

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Rio Grande Foundation Policy Brief: On Balance Evidence Points to Appointed Public Regulation Commission

(Albuquerque, NM) – New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission (PRC) has been at the center of a number of momentous and controversial issues (particularly the Energy Transition Act) in recent years. But bi-partisan momentum exists for reforming the powerful regulatory body and a Constitutional Amendment will be on this November’s ballot which will transform the PRC into a three member body appointed by the Gov.

Is this a good move? What evidence exists from other, similar regulatory agencies? In his new Issue Brief “Should the Governor Appoint PRC Commissioners?” which analyzes the issue and brings evidence from other states into the discussion, the Rio Grande Foundation’s Adjunct Scholar Kenneth Costello discusses the issue and offer his recommendations.

Ultimately, Costello concludes, “While it was not a “slam dunk,” the finding of this brief is that a three-member PRC appointed by the Governor, with input from the nominating committee, would be best for New Mexico.

His arguments in favor of the Constitutional Amendment include: the current Commission size of five commissioners is too many, moving to an appointed model would lead to better-qualified members on the Commission, and appointed commissions have a bigger pool of applicants than the relatively limited number who would run for office.

At the Rio Grande Foundation we expect to disagree regularly with the measures taken by the PRC (the decision to adopt a 100% “renewable” electricity portfolio is only the latest). However, those are often philosophical issues handed down by the Legislature for the PRC to more fully vet and implement.

Ultimately, given the choice between a five member elected PRC and a three member appointed body, the three member commission is the most sensible.

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Understanding the Rio Grande Foundation

The Rio Grande Foundation often comes under criticism from the left. But sometimes we come under fire from the right as well.

For starters we are designated as 501c3 “education and research” think tank. We don’t make endorsements and we don’t “carry water” for any political party or politician. Various media outlets have called us libertarian, conservative, and free market. We call ourselves “free market,” but we don’t waste our breath and time arguing the finer points of ideology because we believe that our work is self-explanatory.

For starters, New Mexico is a deeply challenged state. We believe that a vast majority of these issues are self-inflicted. New Mexico lacks economic freedom and remains poorer and less well educated than our neighbors. We also spend a VAST majority of our time focused on state and local issues as opposed to federal ones.

Those issues broadly include:

  1. Size of Government: New Mexico has long been a state driven by government. Data show that state/local spending is too high and that government regulations make doing business in New Mexico less attractive than doing business elsewhere. We’ve worked on this issue from all angles including: all forms of taxation, subsidies and corporate welfare (notably film subsidies), but also LEDA, JTIP, and “green” subsidies.
  2. Regulation: Rio Grande Foundation has led the charge for “right to work” repeal of NM’s”Davis-Bacon” law, reform of government employee pensions, and against numerous “nanny state” regulations like plastic bag bans. We have also done extensive work against “green” programs from the Energy Transition Act to costly “green” building codes.
  3.   School Choice/Education Reform: Across the political spectrum New Mexicans agree that our K-12 system is failing. While politicians of both parties typically opt for some combination of more money, more time in school (pre-K), and some form of top-down accountability, the Rio Grande Foundation believes that parents and (to an extent students themselves) are better able to decide on the educational options that appeal to them. Charter schools are a good start and should be expanded, but more options are needed.

Additionally, the Rio Grande Foundation supports the US and New Mexico Constitutions, we stand up for free speech, gun rights, private property, and open government.

We don’t take on immigration, gay rights, or abortion issues.

So, there you have it. We at the Rio Grande Foundation have our plates very full, but we are making a difference in New Mexico every day. If that appeals to you, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today!