New Mexico governor thanks oil and gas, cheers hydrogen plan

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The Democratic governor of New Mexico is calling for legislation to help her state begin producing hydrogen from natural gas, a process that generates harmful greenhouse gases but could one day be used to provide environmental benefits. can.

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Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham briefly outlined the effort in a speech Monday to a conference of oil executives acknowledging the state’s reliance on industry tax revenues while pledging to enact pro-environmental regulations.

It’s the latest tough move for the governor, who has promised action on climate change while shielding the state’s oil and gas producers from a federal drilling moratorium on public lands issued by fellow Democrat President Joe Biden.


Lujan Grisham’s first message to officials was to respond to the escalation of the delta version of the coronavirus, citing its own emergency rules.

She paused, while some 300 attendees complied, in a 20-minute speech thanking oil and gas producers for their contributions to the economy and tax revenues, which form the backbone of state education funding.

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It pledged to kick-start the hydrogen fueling industry in New Mexico with legislation in February.

“We’re working on that as we speak,” said Lujan Grisham, adding that it is part of an effort to turn New Mexico into a hydrogen fuel “hub.”

The bill could also include taxes and incentives for energy producers to produce hydrogen, a legal framework for production and storage facilities, refueling corridors for truck traffic, and training programs for workers in the industry.

“The Hydrogen Hub Act will help us reach our ambitious climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45% by 2030 and boost our economy in the process,” said New Mexico Department of Environment spokeswoman Caitlin O’Brien. “

Like electric car batteries, hydrogen fuel cells do not emit carbon dioxide when they are used. But electric cars, such as a growing number of hydrogen vehicles, including forklifts, are as “green” as the energy used to power them.

According to the US Department of Energy, most of the energy currently used to produce hydrogen comes from natural gas, and contributes directly to the pollution it causes. But proponents of the technology, including Biden, see it as a way to reduce carbon emissions as it becomes more environmentally safe.

New Mexico’s first large-scale hydrogen project describes itself as “blue” – using natural gas to split water to make hydrogen. A recent study by Cornell and Stanford found that this process generates 20% more carbon emissions than burning natural gas or coal for heat.

In what could be a line of applause for an industry with some friends in the White House, Lujan Grisham said she is advocating for them at the highest level.

“We continue to negotiate with the Biden administration to ensure that they understand the vital importance of this industry to our state,” the governor said.

But like most speeches, it was met with a silent echo of ceiling lights and the occasional cough.

In March, Lujan Grisham wrote to Biden asking him to exempt New Mexico from an executive order halting gas and oil production on federal lands. She argued that the move would push hydrocarbon mining into Texas which shares a border above ground and the oil-rich Permian Basin beneath it.

But Lujan Grisham describes himself as a “stakeholder” of the industry, not necessarily a friend.

They pledged to continue to enforce regulations restricting methane emissions at mining sites and requiring less freshwater use and thorough cleaning of environmental spills.

The speech made no mention of the oil spill currently off the coast of California, or the record fires made worse by global warming this summer.

Producers say methane regulations would cost billions.

The governor will have another tough run in February when pro-environmental legislators from the state’s increasingly progressive wing get a chance to weigh in on the hydrogen law, and representatives from New Mexico Oil and Gas will.

For many environmentalists, the governor’s methane rule and support for hydrogen aren’t fast enough to stop global warming. Student protesters have started dharna at the Governor’s programs and office.

A handful of student climate activists closed the hotel doors after the governor left for Monday’s event. He sang and held a sign that read “Whose side are you on?”

Back at the convention hall, most oil and gas officials took off their masks shortly after the governor left.


Attanasio is a core member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that hires journalists to report on issues covered in local newsrooms. Follow Atanasio on Twitter.


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