The 2018 New Mexico gubernatorial election has every chance of being a turning point referendum on the future of our state. Will we elect a powerful and outspoken Tea Party extremist, Trumpian apologist, and climate change denier who will promise prosperity if we drink the poisoned Kool-Aid of dismantling the EPA, keep our economy running on toxic fumes, while tossing in the cold-hearted wrecking of public heath care just for good measure?
Is New Mexico’s Congressman from the Second District in the southern part of the state, and gubernatorial aspirant, Steven Edward Pearce, really like that? He has an environmental record as long as your arm proving that Pearce is part of the problem and definitely not part of the solution.
Climate change is starting to turn New Mexico into a heat sink, not quite the sun’s anvil of southern Arizona, but close. And the whole Southwest is on the verge of unbearably hot summers combined with decades of low snow pack and drought punctuated by mind-blowing monsoonal floods that turn water from a godsend into a curse. That’s what science and common sense experience are telling us about the not so long-range future that awaits us.
Next year we will have a chance to join up with states, cities, businesses and universities across the country trying to develop useful and realistic strategies to cope with the environmental calamity of global warming, its local manifestations, and the economic wreckage that it will surely bring to our impoverished state. Or we’ll decide to embrace the companies, politicians, and corporate “scientists” who’ve engineered and profited from global warming and make what will amount to a suicidal pact with the devil’s choirboys.
Climate change denial has been fueled by the think tanks and other political agents of the oil and gas Industry which spend billions a year debunking the idea that greenhouse gases released by fossil fuel burning are heating up the atmosphere. Oil and gas “think tanks” use some of those billions to undermine the usefulness of science itself. Pearce belongs in their camp.
Next year it’s likely we’ll see oil and gas man Pearce running against Democratic Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the niece of one of New Mexico’s most beloved politicians,
Manuel Lujan, Jr., a man so cordial even liberals loved him while opposing his reactionary policies.
There’s no gray in this race. No lesser of two evils. The candidates’ records and public statements speak for themselves. Michelle Lujan-Grisham, for instance, took an early stand in the matter of the 24 million gallons of jet fuel spilled at Kirtland Air Force Base near the sweet spot of Albuquerque’s aquifer, the largest such spill in the country. She said cleaning it up should be the New Mexico Congressional delegation’s “No. 1 priority.” That was a gutsy move four years ago. She was dead right. And she still is. But Republican’s with the purse strings apparently believe pollution is good for you, and the clean up has been torturously slow.
Pearce, on the other hand, thought it was just fine for Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accords, a modest plan to begin with, but one that virtually the whole rest of world has bought into, as a matter of maintaining a global esprit de corps. Each nation’s achievement of the accord’s goals is entirely voluntary, which is one of its great weaknesses. Pearce praised Trump’s action saying that “any agreement the United States enters into regarding climate or emissions must ensure affordable and reliable energy is available for every New Mexican family.” An oil man to his bones, what Pearce meant, it seems to me, is that nothing should get in the way of oil and gas production, nor compete with it in an open marketplace by having the leverage of a global agreement giving non-polluting energy sources a moral advantage.
In electing Pearce we would be installing in the Roundhouse a fellow traveler with the various companies and politicians that have allowed America to contribute massively to the world’s climate disaster, and have done nothing to solve it, but rather undermined all attempts at its amelioration. In fact, he is one of the leading politicians in this perverse crusade to preserve oil and gas profits. And it’s profits we’re talking about here, not bare existence. Fossil fuels still dominate the global energy market and probably will for decades, deepening the climate crisis until it overwhelms us. But its cutthroat business practices treat all competition —particularly renewable energy — like a drug cartel treats its rivals. The only way renewables can compete with fossil fuels is if they become less expensive, which of course they already have.
Debunking the science of climate change is one way to decapitate the competition and keep your profit margins up. Climate science is an international effort among thousands of researchers, none of them hirelings of any energy conglomerate, to my knowledge (although that’s not beyond the realm of the possible, I suppose). Anti-climate change science is exactly like pro-smoking science used to be, paid for by the industry.
The petroleum industry reasons that if it can undermine the moral advantage of renewable energy by questioning its scientific credibility, not with alternative science, but with brilliant propaganda campaigns, then it regains for a moment the momentum in the marketplace that it’s losing to lower-cost solar and wind power.
The argument goes that oil and gas funds New Mexico state government to a huge degree. Anything weakening its market share would further damage the state’s desperately poor economy. The response is simple. Who is winning the fossil fuel debate at the moment? Who will keep winning it for the foreseeable future? Obviously. the oil and gas industry. New Mexico needs a new kind of leadership to begin to think innovatively about new sources of revenue for when fossil fuels inevitably are overthrown by their competition. Pearce would not provide that kind of leadership.
Should we have as a governor a man whose allegiances are with a poisonous industry and not with the people who will eventually succumb to the aftereffects of the toxic wastes produced by that industry?
At a time when the National Geographic and its researchers predict that the southwestern United States has an 80 percent chance of experiencing a mega-drought lasting 35 years or more, if current greenhouse gas emissions remain the same, do we really want to elect a man with zero percent, yes a zero percent, environment voting record, last year, according to the League of Conservation Voters, and a lifetime record of four percent?
Michelle Lujan-Grisham has a 100 percent pro-environment voting record last year, and 89 percent lifetime record. One could say, that Lujan-Grisham and Pearce are almost mirror opposites.
Pearce wants to drill for oil and gas on Otero Mesa over a vast pure water aquifer that could take care of the water needs of El Paso, Juarez, and Las Cruces for up to a 100 years. There’s no way to drill and pump without polluting, no matter what the hired flaks of the industry tell you. Pearce wants to build Trump’s border wall and wreak havoc on legitimate international trade that helps keep the border region afloat. In addition to being a climate change denier, he’s 100 percent anti-abortion, he opposes equal pay for equal work, he supports the draconian Republican healthcare “reform,” and he’s almost a prophet of tax breaks for the very wealthy who include his oil and gas compadres.
Lujan-Grisham is pro-choice, opposes dark money political spending allowed by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and she supports greenhouse gas regulations, according to ontheissues.org. While Pearce opposes same-sex marriage, Lujan-Grisham supports it. She also supports expanding the federal minimum wage and she’s been a strong backer of food stamps. And she’s struck a blow for democracy by co-sponsoring House bills that would make it easier for citizens to vote, with same day and website registration. There will be more to come in this column about Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham in the months ahead.
Steve Pearce is a proven vote-getter in southern New Mexico, a decorated pilot in the Vietnam War, a resident of Hobbs who used to operate an oil and gas supply company, and has the distinction of being endorsed by vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin when he ran for office in 2010. I’m sure he’s a good neighbor and loves his family and his dog, but can he be, by any stretch of the imagination, the right man for our state at this fateful time in our history and in the history of the world?
*Nullius in verba: take nobody’s word for it
(Image derived from graphic by Christopher Dombres.)