This is the time of year when concerns about our state’s water supply begin bubbling to the surface. Climate change projections suggest that living in a desert isn’t set to get any easier. Now more than ever, New Mexico’s communities, treasured landscapes and economy depend on the implementation of climate-smart federal policies.
The Renewable Fuel Standard is a federal program meant to combat climate change by diversifying our alternative fuel portfolio. Unfortunately, the program has not lived up to this original mission — only fuels from corn ethanol have seen successful production levels, cropland conversion has caused widespread habitat destruction, and it has failed to curb climate impacts. Legislation recently introduced by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., aims to change that.
Also introduced in the House by Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., the Renewable Energy through Existing and New Environmentally Responsible Fuels Act improves the Renewable Fuel Standard to fulfill its original intent. Under this bill, corn ethanol production requirements will be lowered starting in 2023 to help prioritize the development of advanced biofuels, an industry in which New Mexico has established itself as a leader. This bill also would establish a fund to help restore and protect native prairie habitat, a critical region for many game bird species. I applaud Sen. Udall for his leadership on this issue and hope that the rest of New Mexico’s congressional delegation will support these commonsense reforms to the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Sophie Shemas is a public lands fellow with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.