Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

NM leading environmental movement


April 3, 2019

When America’s youth began to rebel against the Vietnam War, it was because young men were being drafted. They were on the cutting edge of the issue, so they rose up in defiance.

Something similar is happening now, only it’s not one particular war, nor is it just one nation’s youths. This time, it’s climate change and young people all over the world are demanding change.

Maybe you’ve heard in the news about Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old Swedish girl who, outside her home country’s parliament, staged the first school strike for the climate. Following a heat wave and wildfires that swept across Sweden, she decided not to attend school to demand strong and immediate actions to offset climate change. Other youths joined in and it has grown dramatically since — in mid-March, an estimated 1.6 million such protests took place in more than 300 cities around the globe.

Their message: the “old people” need to do something to offset the coming catastrophe, now!

Meanwhile, in New Mexico, the older people are doing exactly that.

Less than a week after the climate strikes made headlines around the world, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law the Energy Transformation Act (ETA), the most comprehensive and aggressive commitment to renewable energy this state has ever made. The new law sets new standards for moving the state’s “energy portfolio” (which is mostly from fossil fuels) to 100 percent renewables (mainly wind and solar) by mid-century. According to a legislative analysis of the new law, the law dramatically increases renewable energy sources in the decades ahead.

The legislative analysis reads: “Current law requires renewable energy to supply 20 percent of New Mexico’s electricity by 2020. The ETA would increase the renewable energy requirement for all utilities and rural electric cooperatives to 40 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030.

“For utilities, the bill increases the renewable portfolio standards (RPS) to 80 percent by 2040 and requires 100 percent zero carbon resources by 2045 after considering safety, reliability, and costs to customers.

“For rural electric cooperatives, the bill requires 100 percent zero carbon resources by 2050, composed of at least 80 percent renewable energy after considering safety, reliability, and costs to customers.”

So New Mexico state government is now making plans to shut down all coal-powered electricity generating plants in the state and will begin working on ways to reduce methane gas emissions in the oil-and-gas rich southeastern corner of the state. The law also targets greenhouse gas emissions stateside while creating new jobs for displaced workers and communities that feel the economic pain to come with the transition from “dirty” to “clean” energy.

It’s a bold measure that has received national attention, in part because New Mexico is a big producer of oil and natural gas and yet we’ve signed on to the most ambitious climate initiative so far, the Paris Agreement, and are now ready to go all-in with dramatic changes of our own.

There’s a brand new environmental movement afoot, and New Mexico is showing itself as a leader in exactly the kind of real and immediate changes all those young people are demanding.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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