Fighting poverty starts with supporting energy

Jul 02, 2018 1:35 PM

shutterstock_156828218.jpgEmily Haggstrom | Albuquerque Journal | July 2, 2018

New Mexico now ranks last nationally in child well-being, per an analysis from New Mexico Voices for Children.

Federal data also shows New Mexico is challenged in areas of income and job growth, child development and income disparity, leaving many without the opportunities most Americans enjoy.

That’s because families here often have tough choices to make.

For instance, about half regularly choose between food and housing, and more than half choose between food and medical care, according to data from Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico. Two-thirds choose between paying for food and transportation costs, like gas, and six in 10 pick between groceries and energy costs.

These are either-or decisions on daily necessities no family should have to make.

The good news is voters can help households decrease their expenses and communities find funding for schools and public safety by electing policymakers who better support, understand and are willing to work with the local energy industry.

It’s simple supply and demand. The more oil and natural gas New Mexico produces, and the more pipelines and transmission lines it has to move these resources safely, the more energy costs will decrease for cash-strapped families.

That’s because energy-price spikes act as a regressive tax for low-income families and seniors on fixed incomes, taking away a larger amount of their take-home pay. Unlike other necessities, like housing and health care costs, these households often can’t shop for cheaper energy, and local and federal governments oftentimes do not have the resources to assist.

More in-state production and infrastructure could also make everyday necessities like clothes, shampoo, medication, toothpaste, food and cell phones less expensive. That’s because just about everything we use is made with or uses by-products of energy. If the cost of energy goes up, so do the costs of manufacturing and delivering those products, increasing their prices.

Similarly, supporting the energy industry, including oil, gas and renewables, would generate more jobs of varying skills and education levels, plus reverse decades-long trends of poverty, disappointing job growth and wage stagnation.

And thanks to improved tools and procedures, innovations in technology and stringent regulation, the state’s energy sector can help the U.S. remain a world leader in conservation and efficiency.

But a cleaner and more prosperous county and state, and the start of bettering our communities via job growth and lower energy costs, can only happen if voters start electing policymakers savvier at balancing environmental sustainability with energy production and much-needed infrastructure expansion, starting this November.