Paul Gessing

In New Mexico and the United States as a whole, recent months have seen unprecedented attacks on the traditional energy sector from policymakers in Santa Fe and Washington.

The potential harm of President Biden’s ban on oil and gas production on federal lands has been well-documented.

New Mexico will be disproportionately impacted by such a ban. We are the third-largest oil-producing state in the nation, and about half of that production comes from federal lands.

The Biden Administration is pushing policies across the board on the assumption that if the United States acts, we can address global climate change. In Washington, that means everything from pulling the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline to shifting the federal government’s fleet of vehicles toward electric.

Bills in the New Mexico Legislature would do everything from mandating all new home and school construction in New Mexico incorporate solar panels to mandating 75 percent of state-government vehicles be electric-only. Another bill would require dramatic reductions in “carbon intensity” for vehicles purchased by average New Mexicans.

These heavy-handed, economy-killing efforts will be futile in reducing carbon dioxide emissions because the U.S. is not the problem.

In late 2020, Forbes noted that U.S. CO2 emissions already comply with the Paris Climate Accords. Despite a population 40 percent larger than in the mid-1980s, U.S. CO2 emissions are approximately the same as back then.

This combination of a long-term shift in electricity generation from coal to natural gas, basic efficiency as demanded by market competition and regulations from fuel mileage mandates to the Clean Air Act have made the U.S. a more CO2-efficient national economy.

China, on the other hand, is not just rapidly increasing CO2 emissions, but also massively expanding coal-fired electricity production. According to Voice of America, “China put 38.4 gigawatts 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 by Global Energy Monitor, China’s coal-fired fleet capacity rose by a net 29.8 GW in 2020, 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 U.S. policymakers are serious about addressing climate change, they need to work with and use the “bully pulpit” to cajole China to move toward lower CO2 intensity.

After all, China is already the global “leader” in CO2 emissions, approximately doubling those of the United States.

All of this means any CO2 reduction the U.S. makes is only displaced by a doubling from China.

President Joe Biden and Gov. 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 make serious progress toward our climate goals. Destroying the U.S. and New Mexico economies while allowing U.S. progress on CO2 emissions to be undermined by our economic and geopolitical rivals in China is just stupid.

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