Tag Archives: renewable energy

Governor’s hypothetical speech to the oil & gas tycoons

Is this an example of cognitive dissonance?

While New Mexico teens are urging the Governor to declare a climate emergency and to  set aside state income from the oil and gas industries to pay for the transition to an economy without greenhouse gas emissions, Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham is meeting with oil & gas tycoons to deliver a message of collaboration. Not a word about climate disruption.

Cognitive dissonance or shrewd political calculation? In either case, it’s a deadly mistake.

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham

If I was the Governor’s speechwriter, here’s what I would have given her for that audience.   (Her actual speech is reprinted at the end of this blog post.)

“Thank you for inviting me. This is an important gathering and I value the opportunity to speak with you about the serious challenges facing our state, and how we can work together to address them. In this hyper-polarized environment that we find ourselves in this country today, I want to reassure you that my door is always open to you.

I know you want to hear the bottom line from me, what I’m concerned about and what I plan to do, not political posturing to win your vote. 

I know your bottom line is making a profit for your shareholders, making a good living for those engaged in your industry, and providing a sustainable future for the industry.

My bottom line is being a responsible steward of our resources for future generations, my shareholders, and setting us on a path towards a sustainable future for my family and yours.

Our state is at a critical crossroads, and I’m either lucky or jinxed to be the Governor at this point in time.  There’s no denying the fact that climate disruption is bearing down upon us, and the window of opportunity to address this freight train is rapidly closing.

The scientists have been warning us for fifty years or more about the rising carbon dioxide levels, but we had time back then for further research and study. The timeline of our actions and inaction over the past half century to address the rising CO2 levels is brutally honest. It hasn’t been convenient to find solutions or make serious changes when, in hindsight, it certainly would have been easier and cheaper to do so.

I’m pleased that national leaders in your field (oil, coal and gas) recognize the urgency of addressing the impacts of climate disruption. They recognize that climate change is occurring, and that human activity, including the use of fossil fuels, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

New Mexico is blessed with the brains and the scientific labs that have been studying climate change for decades.  I’m thankful the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Sandia National Laboratories are at the forefront of studying climate impacts, and potential adaptation and mitigation measures. They are designing new technology which has the potential to make a profound difference in the livability of our planet for future generations. New Mexico needs to reap the benefits of transitioning this research from the laboratory to the factory and create hundreds, maybe thousands of new jobs for New Mexicans.

I’m a straight shooter.  There’s no arguing with science, and no alternative exists but to transition away from business as usual and away from our reliance on fossil fuels, and towards renewable energy.

But before you blow a gasket — hear me out.

This transition must happen quickly and I know it’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt the industry. It’s going to hurt the state budget. It’s going to hurt every New Mexican. I acknowledge that with great trepidation.

If we had owned up to this reality 20 years ago, I suspect the hurt might not be so great.  Sadly, we did not. And if we don’t own up to our responsibility at this critical moment now, I’m convinced that we’re condemning our children to a very difficult life, and their children to an uninhabitable planet in the future.

The symbiotic relationship between the state and your industry has grown very tight over the years. We’ve worked together, and I hope we will continue to work together to ease the transition for both of us.

Here are some ideas to think about:

I want your families and employees who are currently working in the oil & gas industry to be at the front of the line when opportunities for retraining open up in renewable technologies.  And I want them to fill those new jobs when they come online.

I want you to be role models for the industry and show the rest of the country and the world how we can plan for this transition thoughtfully, without rhetoric or recrimination. Working together, we can forge a creative alliance that reaps untold benefits for all of us —- a win, win, win.  I need your experience and advice at the table.

I plan to enact a moratorium on fracking on lands within the jurisdiction of the state. I’m well aware of both the benefits and costs of fracking, but the health and environmental impacts of fracking concern me.  This moratorium will allow time for reasonable and informed debate at the Legislature about whether a permanent ban is warranted or what type of regulations might be appropriate to mitigate the impacts of fracking. I want the industry, the scientists, and the general public engaged in that discussion.

My bottom line — New Mexico’s future generations require that we act now. I can’t kick this ball down the road. NIMTOO — Not In My Term of Office — is no longer an option.

Thank you.

 

Governor Lujan-Grisham’s speech to the NM Oil & Gas Association in Santa Fe on October 8, 2019.

Opening joke. Good morning and hello again. I see a lot familiar faces from my talk the other week in Carlsbad, at Mayor Janway’s summit. If we keep seeing each other this often, you guys might even start to like me. So be careful. I’ll charm you. Ask the mayor.
Introduce primary theme: Collaboration. When I came down to the southeast the other week, I made a little joke about getting out of Santa Fe and spending time where the money is made, not just where it’s spent — at that old circular building up the street. But jokes aside: Thank you for coming here. It’s important to remember we are one state; we’re united. The differing viewpoints in different regions all across New Mexico, the different benefits each region brings to the table, the different livings hard-working New Mexicans make in different parts of the state — this diversity makes us stronger. I truly believe that. I think it’s true nationally, too, but with the conversations coming out of Washington, D.C., at the moment, it’s easy to lose sight of that. I think we’re a great example — meaning you all, myself, our administration, your industry. New Mexico contains multitudes, and the dialogue we’ve undertaken together this year underscores how we can always find areas of overlap. When we recognize our differences as opportunities to come together and talk, not as excuses to remain in our own separate silos, we are being good neighbors. We’re proactively doing the work to partner up, move forward together. We’re being good stewards of the New Mexican ideal of listening first, speaking second. We put ourselves in a position to develop the right kind of policies for everyone — I give a little, you give a little, and New Mexicans come first. Collaboration, so often a mere buzzword, is put into action.
We’re making progress together. But let’s talk about your progress first. A 400% increase in production over the last few years. (Not bad, huh? Not bad at all.) As I said in Carlsbad, and it’s worth repeating: This industry is the reason New Mexico educators got raises this year. It’s the reason students across New Mexico have new programs, new school supplies; it’s the reason we were able to boost our state investments in small business, rural economic development; it’s the reason we’re able to begin rebuilding behavioral health services in this state, providing care to the most vulnerable families and kids in every corner of New Mexico. These are not talking points: These are the lives of New Mexicans, the everyday struggles and needs and hopes and dreams that we as a state can provide for and meet and exceed. We have a lot of work to do to make sure our state finances — meaning the investments in our kids and our families that we have made and still need to make — have solid back-up. Reserves, rainy day funds, strategic savings — I’m not pollyanna about the way prices fluctuate, the way the winds blow. It’s our duty, in building out the economy of this state, to make the foundation as broad and sturdy as it can be. I don’t believe in luck, but we are fortunate, as a state, to have this opportunity right now to reinvest in our families, in our workforce, in our economy. And the oil and gas industry is the reason, point blank, that we have this incredible head start. That New Mexico families have greater access to high-quality services. So, once again, thank you.
With opportunity comes responsibility. I want to thank you for recognizing the responsibility that comes with the opportunity of this surge in production. The Permian Basin right now is a rock star. I want to make sure — and I know you share this goal — that this rock star doesn’t burn out, doesn’t go too far too fast. We need to work together to keep this thing rocking and rolling. And as an industry, I would say unequivocally: You have stepped up and volunteered to contribute to that effort at most every chance. Again, thank you.
An example of the industry stepping up (in a relatively small way, but symbolically): Chevron (California-based) just announced last week they’re going to donate $1 to local school projects for every tank of gasoline purchased … they’re making $75,000 available to three N.M. school districts. I’d like to see more. I’d like to encourage more of that. Help us continue to make direct investments. [They said they would make up to $5 million available to support school initiatives across the country.]
Necessity is the mother of invention. Your industry and my administration understand this concept and – together were solving problems and creating opportunities around methane and produced water. Because of our collaboration around these two topics – the world is watching, and we will deliver. Your shareholders, as well as mine, are demanding more responsible management of methane. And while We’re clear about methane: We recognize one size does not fit all . So many producers operators and investors are stepping up to work with have stepped up in this arena when our Environment Department and EMNRD set to work. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Methane mitigation is a win-win-win. I want to rack up as many of those collective W’s as we possibly can.
Flares to fuel cells. As your industry pursues e-Frac and solar powered compressor stations, we are pursuing technological advancements like Fuel cells for flares. When we put innovation to work, when we explore how we can find the best solution for as many producers and our environment as can be found, the result will be a reduction of waste methane and an increase in revenue and opportunity. Flares can become fuel cells — we’ve got the labs, we’ve got the top scientists, we have smart and dedicated Cabinet Secretaries, and you have my commitment to  in our administration, all committed to making this transition. We can turn waste into electricity. Why wouldn’t we want to lead the world in that kind of innovative problem-solving? And, let’s make those fuel cells right here in New Mexico – employing our people in the manufacturing of technologies that are deployed all over the U.S. and the world.
I know you’re on board. And if you’re not, my administration will keep working with you until you are. (You might not have my re-election bumper sticker on your car yet but we’ll get some of you there — I’m gonna work on that.) Since we launched our public input strategy around methane, this industry has been coming to us, offering to be and asking to be part of the solution. You guys recognize the responsibility that comes with growth, and that means you’re asking to have a voice as we craft regulations that are realistic, enforceable and adaptable. Senate Bill 553 was a perfect example: That bill, boosting our Oil Conservation Division, had industry support. Thank you for that. With that law now in place, we’re modernizing our systems so we can be more efficient and meet your needs. Our framework has to match your growth. For years, we were behind you. I think we’re closer to being on the same footing now — and it shows. Moving forward together is the only way.
The collaboration and innovation around produced water is just as exciting as methane. I signed into law HB 546 to protect our fresh water and incent scientific and technological advancements. The Environment Department and New Mexico State University entered into an MOU to facilitate fill the data gaps so we can write science-based regulations related to treating produced water. And, NGL Midstream pledged $1M to this effort. Thank you, NGL. Investments in the consortium created under the MOU will advance scientific and technical solutions related to the treatment and ruse of produced water generated by the industry. What’s interesting is NGL is doesn’t make a single barrel of produced water – so for all the operators in the room who are made the 1.3 billion barrels of produced water in 2018 – where’s your contribution? [Pause] Let’s see it. Let’s fund this effort and protect and sustain our fresh water supplies, expand economic development opportunities and continue to stack up the wins.
At the end of the day, when we talk about working together on produced water innovation, we’re talking about leading with science, leading with innovation: We’re going to ensure sustainable management, protection of water resources and opportunities for economic development. Another win-win-win. (Those are starting to add up…)
The same as I recognize your incredible contributions to our state, I hope you recognize my commitment to working together. I’ve talked about it a lot. You’ve heard me say it. I’ll keep saying it. I’m more than talking about it, I’m doing it because when we’re pulling together, when we avoid — as best we can — working at cross purposes. We can identify common goals and protect your investments and support expanding growth industries and protect our water and air, on and on.
So thank you for your time, thank you for having me, thank you for your willingness to listen and partner with us as we identify reach our climate and environmental goals, as we work to build fair and enforceable frameworks for the industry, as we move forward for all New Mexicans.

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On Poverty and Climate Change

(This article was written by Gerard O’Connell, special correspondent in Rome, and originally published in America 4-29-15, and then reprinted in the Saint Ignatius Catholic church bulletin on May 17, 2015.)

“We are the first generation that can end poverty and the last generation that can avoid the worst impacts of climate change.” UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, told this to a conference of 60 scientists and academicians, political leaders (including the Presidents of Italy and Ecuador), business experts and representatives of the world’s major religions, at a summit in the Vatican on April 28.

Pope Francis gives his thumb up as he leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Pope Francis gives his thumb up as he leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

He addressed the high-powered gathering after “a fruitful and wide-ranging conversation” with Pope Francis, during which the pontiff confirmed that his encyclical on protecting the environment is finished and being translated, and expected to be published in June.

“I am very much looking forward to the upcoming encyclical,” the UN chief said; “it will convey to the world that protecting our environment is an urgent moral imperative and a sacred duty for all people of faith and people of conscience.”

Indeed, he noted, “eradicating extreme poverty, ending social exclusion of the weak and marginalized, and protecting the environment are values that are fully consistent with the teachings of the great religions.” Listening to him were representatives from the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the World Council of Churches, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, all of whom expressed full support of the call for action.

The Korean-born UN leader commended Pope Francis, and the faith and scientific leaders present, “for raising awareness of the urgent need to promote sustainable development and address climate change.” He identified climate change as “the defining issue of our time” and emphasized that on this subject ”there is no divide whatsoever between religion and science.” He believes the leaders of the world’s major religions now have a key role to play in the quest to get the community of nations to truly embrace sustainable development and reach a global agreement to address climate change.

Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson

“2015 will be a defining year” in this regard, Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told the conference. In a wide-ranging talk he recalled “the great achievements of the last two centuries,” marked by remarkable scientific, technological and economic progress that has led to “significant numbers enjoying lifespans, livelihoods and lifestyles unimaginable for our ancestors”; a progress “that has lifted hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty” and transformed transport and communications.

This progress, however, has come with “unacceptable costs” and “starkly rising disparities,” the cardinal stated. It has left “vast numbers of people excluded and discarded, their dignity trampled upon,” in what the Pope has branded as “the throwaway culture.” As a result of this, “at least three billion of the seven billion inhabitants of the planet are mired in poverty, a third of them in extreme poverty, while privileged global elite of about one billion people control the bulk of the wealth and consumes the bulk of the resources.” He recalled how “the world produces more than enough food to feed its 7.3 billion inhabitants, but over 800 million (over 11%) go hungry,” while each year “one third of all food produced for human consumption in the world is lost or wasted.”

“We have treated the natural world with the same indifference, abusive treatment and throwaway approach,” the cardinal stated. Thus today, “the ever-accelerating burning of fossil fuels that powers our economic engine is disrupting the earth’s delicate ecological balance on almost-unfathomable scale.”

“In our recklessness – he said – we are traversing some of the planet’s most fundamental natural boundaries. And the lesson from the Garden of Eden still rings true today – pride, hubris, self-centeredness are always perilous, indeed destructive. The very technology that has brought great reward is now poised to bring great ruin.” He mentioned the disasters that have happened already in the Philippines and elsewhere.

The Vatican cardinal concurred with the UN Secretary-General and the renowned scientists present including Nobel Laureates such as Paul Crutzen, as well as representatives of the major world religions, and leading authorities in the field like Jeffrey Sachs, that climate-related disasters are a reality both for poor countries on the margins of the modern economy and for those at its heart.”

Speakers concurred that all the evidence leads to one conclusion: “We must fundamentally change our ways” (Ban Ki-Moon); “We clearly need a fundamental change of course, to protect the earth and its people” (Turkson). Participants later gave voice to this in a joint statement at the end of the day-long conference, which was held in the Vatican at the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Science, whose president, Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chaired the meeting.

Both the UN chief and the cardinal explained that crucial agreements to ensure a safer future for the whole of humanity and greater social justice are within reach at the high-level international conferences that will be held in 2015, if there is the political will. In July, the third International Conference on Finance for Development will be held in Addis Ababa. In September, the UN Special Summit on Sustainable Development (and the goals to achieve this) will be held in New York, at which Pope Francis will give the opening address. Finally, government leaders will gather in Paris from 30 November to December 11 to forge a meaningful agreement on climate change.

An essential goal for a meaningful agreement on climate change requires states to sign onto an accord to prevent global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius. But Ban Ki-Moon warned that this is imperative because “we are currently on course for a rise of 4-5 degrees Celsius, and this would alter life on earth as we know it.” To keep within the 2 degrees limit means moving to a low-carbon pathway and investing in clean energy that can power truly sustainable development.

Jeffrey Sachs

The technology exists to effect such a change, at a relatively low cost in global terms. Professor Jeffrey Sachs told the conference. “To stay below the 2 degrees Celsius limit we have to decarbonize the world’s energy system. It requires us to move to a very low-carbon electricity through the use of solar, geo-thermal and hydro-powers. This requires putting a price on carbon to create proper economic incentives so that utilities move to a clean system and away from fossil fuels.”

He explained later in interviews that “this means leaving ‘stranded assets’ such as oil, gas, coal, underground” but here, he noted, “the largest oil-producing countries and the major oil-companies are the ones that are most resistant to the changes that are needed to make the world safer.”

Asked about the minority who deny the scientific evidence that climate change is due to man and are against such a move to decarbonize the world’s energy system, Sachs said they ignore the fact that climatology is an established science for over a hundred years, and that the scientific evidence “is overwhelming.”

Professor Sachs said these people persist in a libertarian ideology that wants to operate freely without government interferences, whatever the cost. He said misinformation about climate change is disseminated by a smaller group that has a lot of political power in the USA right now: the very rich, the power of the oil and coal industries, and they pay politicians. Such misinformation is spread by the media linked to the fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal – industries, such as that of the Koch brothers. That same propaganda is also very strong in Robert Murdoch’s media. Nevertheless, Sachs believes that about two-thirds of Americans understand the issue properly; they know that it’s dry in California and there are big storms, and they know things are changing.

He’s calmly optimistic that agreement on climate change can be reached in Paris. The signs are good as many leaders in the oil industry are taking personal responsibility and reflecting on the risks to the world, and saying we need to do something. But he’s waiting to see if, for example, Exxon-Mobil in the United States will come on board and take a moral stance too.

He noted with joy that shareholders around the world are saying we will not invest in irresponsible practices; they are calling for shareholder resolutions and divestment protests. Many universities and foundations have now divested and the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Norway, which is the world’s largest wealth fund at almost a trillion dollars, is going to scrutinize its investments through a moral framework.

Sachs said the call from scientists and religious leaders is very important in helping people understand the urgent need for change, and he believes that Pope Francis’ encyclical will have a big impact in supporting the dynamic for change at “this historical moment.”

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