NM needs to make the most of ongoing boom

Mar 28, 2019 7:43 AM

ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD | ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL | March 19, 2018

The boom lives on.

For now.

As Journal reporter Kevin Robinson-Avila reported Wednesday, New Mexico is enjoying tandem surges from both oil and natural gas industries. Oil production in 2018 jumped 42 percent from the previous year, while natural gas production enjoyed a more measured 13 percent increase in the same time frame.

While the presence of tech giants in the Land of Enchantment offers promise, those statistics from the state Oil Conservation Division are a reminder oil and gas has been the most constant private industry in the state’s modern development. Even taking into consideration the frustrating roller coaster of booms and busts, energy has quite literally kept the lights on in New Mexico.

Yes, we as a state need to be vigilant environmental stewards of our public lands, especially in the era of scaled-back federal protections and considering our proportionately massive methane emissions. The successful Senate Bill 489, a historic measure that lays out a path to carbon-free electricity generation by 2045, is a good step in that direction.

Yes, we need to pay heed to the need for more rural infrastructure investment, especially for those roads in the far-flung areas of the state that bear the brunt of wear and tear from energy workers’ traffic.

Yes, we need to encourage a diversified economy that will better cushion the blows of the busts.

Yes, we need to guard against an outsized influence on state or local policy.

But politicians shouldn’t be too quick to turn their noses up at the boons that energy taxes, royalties and leases have to offer. The current boom is why New Mexico has an estimated extra $2 billion this and next fiscal year.

Lawmakers in February proposed hitting a four-year pause button on the issuance of new fracking permits across the state. While the bill never made it out of the state Senate Conservation Committee, Steve Pearce, chairman of the New Mexico GOP, told the Journal he fears the “mere discussion” of a moratorium by Roundhouse politicians could send potential future energy investors fleeing – presumably to the gentler hills of Texas. Pearce’s comments may have been a touch dramatic, but the fact is, if oil and gas up and left, the impact on the state budget would be devastating.

In fiscal 2018, the industry generated a record $2.2 billion in state income – money that will go to strengthening schools, bridges, roads and public safety initiatives.

Now that there’s a several-year forecast for sunny O&G revenues, it’s time to invest this money wisely in New Mexico’s future while transitioning to carbon-free options and diversifying the state’s economy beyond extractive industries and government spending.

Because rainy days come, even in New Mexico.