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.