BY MARCO SERNA
Candidate for 3rd Congressional District
Despite all of the scientific data, the massive droughts and historic flooding, it’s amazing that Republicans and some business leaders deny that climate change is a credible threat to our future. Multiple studies from world scientists published in peer-reviewed journals show that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends are due to human activities, the effects of which are seen daily in the form of intense heat waves, the melting of glaciers, and rising sea levels.
Although Democrats agree that climate change is a credible threat to our future, we disagree on how to solve the problem. At least three of my primary election opponents have come out in favor of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ proposal, the Green New Deal. After studying the proposal and better understanding the effect it will have on New Mexico and the 3rd Congressional district, I cannot in good conscience support the “Green New Deal” as it stands today.
The Green New Deal is a proposal presented in the Senate by Senator Edward Markey and in the House by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The fourteen-page resolution calls for a “10-year national mobilization,” of which the primary goals would be:
- Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.”
- “Providing all people of the United States with (i) high-quality health care, (ii) affordable, safe and adequate housing; (iii) economic security; and (iv) access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.”
- “Providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education to all people of the US.”
- “Meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the US through clean, renewable and zero- emission energy sources.”
- “Repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States, including….by eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible.”
- “Building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and smart power grids, and working to ensure affordable access to electricity.”
- “Upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort and durability through electrification.”
- “Overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in – (I) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; (ii) clean, affordable and accessible public transportation; and (iii) high speed rail.”
- “Spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the United States and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible.”
- “Working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture sector as much as is
As a lifelong Democrat, I support many of the goals of the “Green New Deal.” And while I admit, my initial inclination was to endorse the proposal, after completing a thorough analysis, I came to a different conclusion. Clearly, the “devil is in the details,” and quite frankly, it is difficult for me to understand how any public official or candidate for Congress from New Mexico could support the “Green New Deal” as it stands today. Consider the following:
- The Green New Deal calls for the elimination of all fossil fuel energy production – which includes not only oil, but also natural gas – one of the cheapest sources of American energy.
- It targets agriculture which is responsible for 9 percent of our nation’s greenhouse gasses including the release of nitrous oxide from soil and methane from livestock. According to two FAQ documents, proponents state, “We set a goal to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in ten years because we aren’t sure that we will be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.”
- The “Green New Deal” calls for the elimination of all coal-fired plants in the United States.
These three proposals would have a devastating effect on the state of New Mexico.
- According to the New Mexico Tax Research Institute, the state collected more than $4 billion in revenue from activities related to oil and natural gas production in FY18. Comparing oil and gas production in the eight neighboring states, New Mexico has the greatest share of total oil and gas production contributing to government revenue. New Mexico is the third-largest producing state and the ninth-largest natural gas producer in the US.
- Oil and gas has a significant impact on New Mexico’s general fund receiving $1.743 billion in FY17. Over $934 million of the new oil and gas revenue went to education.
- Agriculture is one of our state’s principal industries with cash receipts approaching $3 billion annually and directly supports over 23,000 jobs in the state. There are over 1.5 million cattle on NM lands, and our state ranks seventh highest in milk and eighth highest in cheese production in the country. New Mexico’s individual dairy-herds are the largest in the country.
- Over 50 percent of electricity production in New Mexico is from coal-fired plants. The overall price tag of the Green New Deal is estimated to cost $93 trillion. An average American household would pay $71, 910 in year one and $44,497 in years 2–5.
Economically, New Mexico is one of the poorest states in the country. Our economy is based on mineral extraction, agriculture, and tourism, and the Green New Deal targets two pillars of the foundation of our economy. Simply put, it would devastate our education system and our state operating budget. Thousands of New Mexico workers would become unemployed and small businesses throughout the state would go out of business. I join with the National AFL-CIO in opposing the Green New Deal because of its effect on our economy and on union workers. To endorse the Green New Deal without understanding the details is not only irresponsible as it is likely to be catastrophic to our state.
I firmly believe that climate change is a credible threat to our future. I am happy to highlight, last year our legislature addressed this issue by passing the New Mexico Transaction Act of 2019. Dubbed the “Mini New Green Deal,” the Act outlines a thought-out plan to change our electrical grid from coal to carbon-free renewable energy by 2045. I fully supported this legislation because it has a realistic
timetable and provides funding for economic diversification and retraining for coal miners and workers involved in these industries. Governor Lujan Grisham and legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle worked with the affected communities and industries to enact this legislation. When elected to Congress, I hope to bring the same thoughtful approach to Washington.
There are many things that we can do outside of the Green New Deal to ensure our future is protected. I firmly believe in and support investing in the development and deployment of technologies like solar, wind, nuclear and renewable energy. Climate change is a global problem, I strongly believe that the United States should rejoin the Paris Climate Change Agreement and help build consensus throughout the world. Instead of cutting down 33 million acres of forest every year, we need to encourage reforestation and better forest practices. I am optimistic about the expansion and development of carbon capture and storage plants throughout the country. I also believe that New Mexico has the opportunity to build a geothermal energy program. At the same time, I oppose fracking and believe that we need to move away from fossil fuels in order to protect our future. Moreover, I believe that we must support our tribal brothers and sisters who are fighting with the fossil fuel industry to protect their lands and heritage.
Do we need to act on climate change—absolutely, but I believe that the “ten-year mobilization plan” of the Green New Deal is not only unrealistic, it will devastate the education system and economy of New Mexico. Before I support any proposal, I have to be assured that the best interests of New Mexicans are protected—New Mexico’s “Mini Green New Deal” is a meaningful step in the right direction. It is clear to me that of all the 50 states in the union, New Mexico would be most severely affected by the Green New Deal. Without more details and assurances of mitigation costs, I cannot support the Green New Deal at this time. I urge the other candidates running for Congress in the 3rd district to study this issue and instead of supporting the Green New Deal, provide realistic solutions to this global problem.