People care more about their wallet

Tom McDonald

Tom McDonald

By Tom McDonald

State columnist

The big news on the energy front this week is about the Obama administration’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants by 30 percent by 2030.

The intent is to clean up our air in an effort to combat global warming.

That’s a critically important issue, especially for our children and grandchildren, but it’s not the only environmental issue that needs to be addressed.
Recently, I read a couple of much smaller headlines concerning our soil and water, right here in New Mexico.

The first headline was over a report about how the Bureau of Land Management can’t keep up with the riskier drilling operations around the country. An investigation by the Government Accountability Office found that BLM inspected only about 56 percent of its “high priority” wells — wells where the risk of water contamination and other environmental threats is highest — between 2009 and 2012.

In other words, oversight of the wells mostly likely to pollute our soil and water is hit-or-miss at best, and absent at worst.

The second headline touted a new map that shows where oil-and-gas spills are located in Colorado and New Mexico. The Center for Western Priorities has built an online layout of all the oil- and gas-related spills in these two states since the year 2000. The map pinpoints about 13,600 spills in the two states, with more than 10,000 of them in New Mexico.

In 2013 alone, 448 spills occurred in Colorado — and 934 in New Mexico.

It’s not a pretty sight for those who live in northwestern and southeastern New Mexico, where nearly all our state’s spills have taken place.

There’s no easy solution to the problems created by our fossil fuels addiction. The nation needs the energy and New Mexico, with its oil-and-gas reserves, needs the revenue.

But we’ll never find the answers if we aren’t fully and honestly informed. Then maybe we can take action in responsible ways, as stewards of our resources instead of polluters of our planet.

If you ask me, the people who should be demanding action live where the most spills are. Unfortunately, however, that’s also where the oil and gas industry’s influence is its strongest, and therein lies the rub.

People may care about the long-term effects on the environment, but they care more about the short-term impact on their pocketbooks.

That’s why, as details come out about President Obama’s aggressive approach to curbing coal-burning emission, the outrage will be substantial. And despite the science that stacks up against them, the global warming deniers will be out in droves. They are speaking to our pocketbooks.

Such are the “inconvenient truths” of our time.

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