Electrify for Peace & the Planet

We are in an economic war with Russia, a war that directly involves Europe, a war in which our — and to a far greater extent Europe’s — dependence on Russian fossil fuels is a critical issue. Over the past couple weeks, first Bill McKibben and then NM Senator Martin Heinrich have seen how to link the accomplishment of our climate goals with US and European leverage in the economic war with Russia. Sadly, achieving climate goals are never reason enough to make change, but it seems that the Russian invasion of the Ukraine has created an opportunity to accelerate our transition to renewable energy.

Before we dive into electrifying for peace and planet, we offer first a comment and then links to two important Retake YouTube videos

Comment: I went to physical therapy for the first time in 3 months on Monday and the assessment that was done revealed that I had regressed significantly since my last rehab session in December. The regression was mostly in relation to my balance and coordination, key factors in avoiding falls or accidents, which are things to be avoided at any age, but especially at 71 (next month). As a result, I absolutely must prioritize not just attending my 3 weekly PT sessions, but also devoting significant time at home to doing the exercises they introduce in sessions. This will result in my spending less time on blog posts and other writing and more time on my recovery.

So, for example, today’s post is the first one completed in ten days and that may well be the publication cycle for some time. I’d rather be writing, but I’d also rather not be falling! This comes at an unfortunate point in time as we are readying for the Interim Hearings, the primary elections, and, oh yeah, the Special Session, April 5.

We’ll do our best keeping on top of things. Onward…

NM State Auditor Candidate Forum: Zack Quintero and Joe Maestas

In our minds, this is a critical position, but the race for this position often flies under the radar. We organized this forum that offered both candidates opportunities to respond to questions crafted by Retake co-founders, Paul Gibson & Roxanne Barber, and then 30 minutes of questions from the audience. Since candidates had not seen the questions, the forum offered impromptu responses, not canned campaign speeches. If you haven’t made up your mind on this election, this discussion should help you make an informed decision.

Reena Szczepanski, Democratic Candidate for House District 47

Before serving as Speaker Brian Egolf’s Chief of Staff for six years, Reena Szczepanski served as director of Emerge, a non-profit dedicated to recruiting and training women to run for public office, and before that she served as the director of the Drug Policy Alliance. In a great conversation, we discussed her views on a range of policies and bills, as well as her reasons for running for House Rep. If you don’t know Reena, this is a great introduction.

Retake Huddle: The Strategy Conversation Continues: April 13, 6-7:30pm.

Our ongoing Huddles are on the 2nd Weds of every month from 6-7:30pm. If you want to become part of the Retake community and help us forge and advance our strategy to promote progressive policy and legislation in NM, join us for our next Huddle, Weds., April 13, 6-7:30PM. You must register to participate.

Click here to register.

Retake Election Central Coming

We’ve meet with our Board and affirmed an initial list of candidates we will support in the primary and general elections. We have a few races where we need to do more research and engage more allies. But our Election Central page will include a list of endorsed candidates. We will include how to find out more about each candidate and how you can help support their campaigns. The primaries this year will be very important, as with Speaker Egolf retiring the Speaker position will be put to a vote and we want a strong progressive in that position.

We learned this week that an industry-supported PAC is recruiting and funding conservative Democratic candidates to challenge solidly progressive Democratic Reps in the primary. We will report on this as more is learned. But know that your House Rep may need a bit more support than in the past. This is an opportunity to educate voters about how progressive values and policies serve people and planet, while industry-backed candidates serve… industry.

Retake on the Radio with Rep. Roger Montoya

Saturday, March 26, 8:30am on KSFR 101.1 FM or streaming live from ksfr.org. I’ll be talking with one of my favorite legislators, Rep. Roger Montoya. I recorded the show on Thursday and it is very worth hearing, as it reveals someone who is very unlike most politicians who must first test which way the wind blows before taking a position. I respect Rep Montoya so much because he gets justice in his gut Before taking a posiion, he doesn’t test public opinion or the wind, but his values.. A great Rep.; a great man. Tune in to find out why. If you miss it, just click on the Retake on the Radio button on the right side of our home page to watch the video, which will be posted Friday evening.

Electrify for Peace & Planet, A Response to Russia’s War on Ukraine

Let’s begin by admitting that despite the initial euphoria over Bill McKibben’s plan to transition to electric heat pumps (as described below), the plan is no panacea. It will not magically reduce our carbon foot print to the degree required. But there is no doubt it has shifted the conversation in a positive direction. From this morning’s CNN Political report.

“This crisis also presents an opportunity. It’s a catalyst,” Biden said. “A catalyst that will drive the investments we need to double down on our clean energy goals and accelerate progress towards our net zeroes emissions future.”

From CNN Politics: Biden arrives in Poland as he announces new plan to wean Europe off Russian energy

For years, we’ve noted that progress toward a transition to renewables only gained traction as it became more viable economically. It’s as if, as a nation and as a state, ensuring a livable planet for our children was never a good enough reason to sacrifice private profit, state revenue, or jobs.

The war in Ukraine may be a new factor that causes America and New Mexico to accelerate our transition from fossil fuels. While Russia may have us and Europe over a barrel (of crude), and we may seek strategies to get free of that barrel, the gas and oil industry will not roll over easily.

Right now, the best leverage and the most effective sanction the West can use to get Russia’s attention is to shut off the flow of natural gas from Russia to Europe. Keep in mind that much of Europe is dependent on Russia for natural gas to heat their homes. Enter Bill McKibben with an idea that has caught the attention of President Biden and just might kick start the transition that is needed. From Common Dreams:

The White House has reportedly put under consideration a plan floated by climate activist and author Bill McKibben for the U.S. to mass-produce heat pumps to be sent to Europe to lessen its reliance on Russian fossil fuels while also addressing the planetary emergency.

“We can and should do this. Heat pumps for peace! So cool to see this idea picking up such momentum!” tweeted Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media and co-founder along with McKibben of 350.org….

It’s amazing to watch people across the planet rallying to the defense of brave Ukraine—choirs singing outside Russian embassies, soccer teams refusing to play Russian teams. And it’s wonderful to watch governments rise to the occasion: shutting off airspace to Russian airplanes, or kicking them off international banking protocols. All of it helps enormously in the moment—but little of it goes straight to the heart of Russia’s power which (besides nuclear weapons) is almost entirely based on its production of gas and oil. Remember—60% of its export earnings are hydrocarbons. For decades Europe has cowered for fear Moscow would turn off the tap.

From Common Dreams. McKibben ‘Heat Pumps for Peace’ Plan Gains Traction With Biden

Apparently, Senator Heinrich has been reading McKibben’s blog. He jointly penned, with Rewriting America CEO Ari Matusiak, an op-ed for The Hill  in which they discussed their Electrify for Peace plan. From Senator Heinrich in The Hill:

As Americans watch the inspiring heroism of Ukrainians fighting for their land and survival, we see plainly before us the fallout from a world dependent on fossil fuels. Oil and gas have propped up Putin’s regime. Fossil fuels have enabled an autocrat to fantasize that he can reset the terms of the global order.

The only way to break free from that cycle of dependence is to stop using the machines that consume fossil fuels to heat our air and water, cook our food, dry our clothes, and take us from place to place. We must electrify. And quickly.

It is clear that dependence on fossil fuels is not just bad for the environment, but puts people at risk. Electrification can break the cycle. And while the immediate need is in Europe, going all in for electrification at home can both spur manufacturing opportunities and facilitate our own transition towards true independence.

Fossil fuels make our European allies vulnerable to Putin: Forty percent of Europe’s natural gas comes from Russia, along with 27 percent of their oil. If we include the United Kingdom, 76 million homes in Europe use gas for heat. Breaking Putin’s power grip means destroying demand for his dwindling fossil fuel resources. Every single home that runs on clean electricity is one more family that is beyond Putin’s reach. So far, the current sanctions have largely exempted Russian oil and gas precisely because of this dependency. Electrification gives political leaders more leverage to dictate the terms of engagement. 

Electrifying 76 million homes is a bold goal. But so was building 47,000 planes in 1942. War demands that we do what we think we cannot….

When we electrify, we will move from a politics of scarcity and dependence to one of abundance, enabling us to build and maintain the best things about this world while doing away with the worst.

From The Hill: Freedom for Ukraine, Electrification for Peace and Prosperity by Senator Martin Heinrich

It’s refreshing to hear Sen. Heinrich referring to gas and oil as “the worst.” A shift in narrative?

Wouldn’t it be remarkable if our world leaders viewed the climate crisis as a war worth fighting without the need for the threat of a world war to stimulate these kinds of ideas? Or how about instead of hydrogen hubs, NM seeks funding to be an electric heat pump hub and generate jobs and revenue that won’t contribute to the climate crisis? If any of you have a relationship with Sen. Heinrich, it might be worth asking him to reach out to MLG. She is in desperate need of a great idea to boost her campaign.

Place the heat pump manufacturing work in McKinley County and maybe Rep. Lundstrom will back off her hydrogen hub fantasies. Let’s plant the seed!

Surprise: Gas & Oil Industry Has Other Ideas

For many years Bill McKibben has surfaced ideas that, if implemented, would have helped the world mitigate what is coming. But the gas & oil industry cares only about their bottom line, and so, as reported in The Rolling Stone:

The fossil fuel industry has taken advantage of how easy it is to manipulate these cost estimates. Academic research has documented that economists hired by oil companies “used models that inflated predicted costs while ignoring policy benefits, and their results were often portrayed to the public as independent rather than industry-sponsored. Their work played a key role in undermining numerous major climate policy initiatives in the U.S. over a span of decades.”  

We can get some idea of how unreliable these cost estimates are by examining cost estimates of previously implemented environmental regulations, such as the phase out of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the 1990s. Prior to the phaseout, many suggested it would be an economic apocalypse. After the phase out, “The ease with which businesses have developed CFC substitutes makes it easy to forget how hard the tasks looked at the outset. Industries predicted doomsday scenarios,” Jessica Mathews wrote in The Washington Post in 1995. 

The lesson from the phase-out of CFCs is the power of the market to innovate. Once it became clear that CFCs would be banned, the free market rapidly produced cheap, effective substitutes. This is exactly the beauty of the free market, and it’s ironic that economists who tout it are ignoring the power of government regulation to spur innovation.   

From The Rolling Stone: “The First Step Toward Saving the Planet Is Ignoring the Economists

These “sky is falling” warnings from gas & oil lobbyists will only increase as mainstream political leadership grows comfortable with meaningful transition proposals.

In an interview in Washington last week, Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas companies, dismissed the idea that the “energy transition” meant a significant drop in the use of fossil fuels. She noted that the Energy Information Agency last year predicted that demand for oil and gas will continue to rise steadily through 2050.

We can talk about this idealistic supposed future where there’s no oil, natural gas and coal,” Ms. Sgamma said. “But that’s not the reality.  So if we’re going to talk about a transition, let’s find something that we can transition to, because right now we don’t have a technology that can provide all of our needs 24-7. Flat out we don’t,” she said. “So just realistically, we’re going to be here through 2050 and many years after.”

From the New York Times: “There’s a Messaging Battle Right Now Over America’s Energy Future.

It is dismissive comments like this –“idealistic, supposed future” — supported by industry-sponsored “research” that undermines serious efforts to address climate change. And yes, serious efforts involve serious sacrifice. But we can make sacrifice now or leave it to our kids to pay the price we refused to pay. Our choice.

As the latest IPCC report says, “The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”

It doesn’t get any clearer than that, and yet, when we return to the Roundhouse in 2023, any effort to initiate a just transition or even to just study it will be met by a chorus of industry-sponsored “independent” research that asserts that fossil fuels are essential to our economy, our employment base, and our way of life. Cleverly omitting reference to its contribution to killing the only planet we have. Cleverly omitting reference to our need to transform our way of life so it is not dependent upon fossil fuels, or as Senator Heinrich put it:

“The only way to break free from that cycle of dependence is to stop using the machines that consume fossil fuels to heat our air and water, cook our food, dry our clothes, and take us from place to place. We must electrify. And quickly.”

From The Hill: Freedom for Ukraine, Electrification for Peace and Prosperity, by Senator Martin Heinrich

We will have more coming on “heat pumps for peace,” how it might be moving the conversation in a different direction, and whether it is an idea that NM will be able to get its arms around. Better heat pumps than hydrogen. This can’t be the end-all of our transition, but the very beginning of a new way of thinking.

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Climate Justice

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9 replies

  1. IMO,
    We’re not really in an economic war with Russia. We are in an existential war with fossil fuel oligarchs the world over. The US government (and the Russian government) are representing the interests of their respective oligarchs.

    • While i do see us in an economic war with Russia, I’m very glad you made the distinction, as the laarger war is with the oil barrens who will gladly trade our planet’ future for continued financial gain. But maybe this moment will cause more to connect those dots.

  2. If we need money to make these transitions why not impose a COVID wealth tax. All of those billionaires that were billionized again on the eve and early months of the pandemic that had inside information. There is a lot of money that was made while suppressing news and delaying action by the former administration causing so many unnecessary deaths in this country all for the sake of buying time for reshuffling of portfolios.

  3. A great article Paul. I forwarded it to 350nm group and out of state friends. Thanks, Ward

  4. I think one reason it’s easy to bamboozle people with statements referring to transitioning to other energy sources as idealized and fantastical is that these topics are complex. And, in my opinion, there are lots of people not paying attention to the details. It’s almost if, to make the salient points, we need the equivalent of a Dick and Jane book about the transition to wind, solar, and heat pumps. Oh, and then there’s all that money tied up in shareholder value…

  5. Paul and Roxanne, I know you concentrate on locale issues in Retake, and I think that’s a good idea.

    Also I feel strongly that we shouldn’t let pass remarks that reinforce “official narratives” about very important war-machine-related political issues, which surely are very important at the local level (1 trillon/yr in taxes for the war machine, widespread acceptance of morality of empire, etc).

    Caitin Johnstone, whom I follow and recommend, says about Ukraine, “This is because this was all planned well in advance. We’re where we’re at now because the US empire brought us here intentionally.”

    Thanks to a friend bringing it up 5 years after the fact, I looked into what actually happened on 911 and came to reject the official narrative. Anyone interested in looking at the evidence surrounding the collapse of WTC-7 please contact me.

    Leaving aside 911 itself, immediately afterwards the program of regime change in 7 countries in 5 years came out. Some of us see Ukraine as adding Russia to that list, with the actions (our “tax dollars at work”) beginning in 2014 with the regime change in Ukraine.

    And the empire wants to add China to regime-change list as well.

    Some of us see all this as evidence of psychopathic insanity in our political leadership (including Heinrich).

  6. This is crazy.

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