As Congress debates two different spending packages that would devote trillions of dollars to updating and modernizing American infrastructure, the political divide is where you might expect to be: Most Democrats are backing the White House push to invest in clean energy and clean water, while many Republicans balk at the cost of the plans or remain staunchly opposed to raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for it.

But that impasse gives us a golden opportunity to find common ground on at least one thing: ending government handouts to fossil fuel corporations. If the problem is really about spending, then why spend precious resources to give to profitable companies whose very business model is bringing us closer to climate crisis?

All told, fracking companies and oil behemoths rake in about $15 billion in subsidies every year. That support encourages new fracking and drilling, which is exactly what we need to stop doing, as the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warned us in no uncertain terms.

So how do we get rid of these corporate giveaways once and for all? We need our lawmakers to make it a priority as they debate the particulars of these infrastructure plans. For starters, any lawmakers who say they support climate action. Sen. Ben Ray Luján has taken some positions that show he wants to be a leader; he supported the Green New Deal, and his campaign at one point declared it would not accept donations from oil, gas and coal companies.

Of course, New Mexico is in a peculiar and vulnerable position when it comes to fossil fuel development. Our state budget relies heavily on revenues from the boom-and-bust drilling and fracking. This dependence on dirty energy creates perverse incentives; we’re told that if we want to fully fund social services and public schools, we must essentially root for the polluting industries that harm front-line communities, fuel climate change and threaten our water supplies.

New Mexico’s future does not have to be tied to the industry that is sickening its communities, threatening its scarce water resources and wrecking its climate. Luján has co-sponsored legislation that strives to find more sustainable funding solutions while supporting jobs and communities in a just transition to a cleaner, safer future for all.

As we transition away from fossil fuels, it is essential we support the workers and institutions that have relied on these industries, not double down on dirty energy with public dollars. We will not make progress on climate change if we continue handing over taxpayer money to the very industries that are causing the climate crisis to begin with. In an era of climate crisis that is defined by droughts and wildfires, common sense tells us that government handouts to polluters must stop.

As a candidate, President Joe Biden pledged to do away with this wasteful spending. Those funds could be better invested in clean water projects, climate resilience and clean energy development, all of which can help build healthier communities in New Mexico. Front-line communities in our state have been sickened for decades, living with the consequences of coal plants, oil drilling and fracking. We need leaders like Luján to show they are truly committed to real climate action by putting an end to the policies that encourage this pollution.

Margaret Wadsworth is the New Mexico Senior Organizer with the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch.

(10) comments

Khal Spencer

Given the constant stream of gasoline-powered SUVs passing by my house in liberal Santa Fe, I bet most people here are quite happy to pay less at the pump, taking advantage of these subsidies.

Oh, and as far as Ms. Koyama's snarky comment, see if you can keep up with these folks, Emily.

Mike Johnson

Good point Khal. As a former petroleum executive I have to say this argument has been floating around for decades, and all Congress or any oil producing states have done is just add subsidies for alternative energy and EVs. The consumers are making the choices here, and the free market is working far better than any government subsidies as people buy products they choose. And so far EVs are about 2% of new car sales, while alternate energy electricity (wind and solar) is about 10%. So I am certainly not worried EVs and wind and solar will displace fossil fuels to any large extent within the next 20 years, and after that, I could care less.....

Emily Koyama

Still eating steak, Khal.

Jim Klukkert


Laddie Mills

It is lunacy to feed irresponsible O&G while they continue to ravage our lands and environment. A comprehensive accounting of the hidden liabilities and collateral damage they are leaving for taxpayers is imperative so that they can pay their fair share and make our lands and environment whole.

Khal Spencer

Seems the D and R folks should agree on ending government incentives to develop more fossil fuels and while we are at it, stop subsidizing agribusiness to raise feed for cattle, another source of carbon emissions. Let the market run a competition without government putting its thumbs on the scale.

Khal Spencer

Oh, a read.

Emily Koyama

If costs for US oil and gas go up, it will increase imports, which is not a desirable outcome for those that remember the embargo.

Sure, demand will slowly drop as more electric cars and trucks take to the roads, but unless the power for those vehicles comes from renewable sources, oil and gas will still be in the mix for a long time.

Khal Spencer

The Dems and Progressives want to get away from fossil fuels and CO2 emissions. So why do we continue to build bigger and wider roads, keep the gas tax low, and subsidize resource (and CO2) intensive agribusinesses? Is it because our Governor loves Wagyu Beef?

Emily Koyama

I can always spot the vegans wandering downtown. Frail, pale and bony. Perhaps someone will come out with fake steaks as good as the real thing, but I'm not holding my breath.

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