As a teacher, I appreciate every cent that goes to support our students. And since oil and gas currently accounts for a major portion of revenues for our education budget, I thank the workers in the oil patch who make that possible. So why do I cringe at advertisements from the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association promoting the industry as the savior for our state?
Here’s why: “Like it or not, we’re at the tail end of the fossil fuel age,” said Jim Peach, professor of economics at New Mexico State University.
Our state’s addiction to oil and gas to fund our education means it is subject to boom and bust cycles. And the big bust on our horizon will be even more painful to our schoolchildren and the quality of our education if we don’t diversity our revenue streams. We need more than studies on “transition.” We need our state policymakers to embrace the moment offered by President Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s executive action on climate change, including a federal pause and review on oil and gas leasing.
Rather than being lulled by short-term upswings, and dreading the downsides of the oil and gas roller coaster, we should heed the analysis by experts at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and get off the fossil fuel roller coaster now. The industry in New Mexico will probably never rebound to previous levels, and that means it will provide less and less tax revenues for our state. New Mexico educators were expecting the 4% raise passed for the 2020-2021 school year, only to have that cut back. The roller coaster won’t stop, but that does not mean New Mexico teachers and students should be taken for that ride. Education needs secure, stable funding.