Energy, Utilities and Environment

Rio Grande Foundation to Host Bi-Weekly Radio Show on 770 KKOB AM

(Albuquerque, NM) — New Mexico’s only free market think tank, the Rio Grande Foundation, is hosting an hour-long radio show on 770 KKOB starting this Saturday, August 16, from noon to 1pm. The show will air every two weeks through at least the end of 2014. The show, entitled “New Mexico Freedom Hour” will focus on economic and education issues here in New Mexico with an eye towards real solutions that have been tried in other states. The format will involve interviews of guests from across the political spectrum and phone calls from the public. The call-in number is: 505-243-3333. Said Rio Grande Foundation president and primary host, Paul Gessing, “This show offers the listeners a unique forum in which to learn about and discuss the ways in which free markets and limited government can help everyday New Mexicans lead better lives. Show topics will include labor freedom, taxation, education reform, and an economic history of New Mexico to name just a few.

Carl Graham's interview on Las Cruces PBS

Carl Graham recently sat down and talked with Fred Martino of KRWG TV in Las Cruces. The video of Graham's interview can be seen below. Feel free to fast-forward through the valentine to heavily-subsidized so-called "renewable" industry to the 5:25 mark when Graham's interview starts. After Graham's interview, there is an interesting (albeit one-sided) discussion of the land the State of New Mexico could receive due to the Organ Mountains Monument land grab.

Federal lands in New Mexico: Recent presentations

Carl Graham of the Coalition for Self Government and I had a whirlwind tour of New Mexico to discuss federal lands issues in the West and New Mexico in particular. We discussed New Mexico's economy and how it is impacted by federal lands as well as solutions like "Financial Ready" and "Transfer of Federal Lands" (TPLA) legislation.

Carl spoke at a well-attended public meeting in Albuquerque:

Carl Graham of the Coalition for Self Government in the West speaks at Rio Grande Foundation event from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

He and I (my presentation starts at 45:20) also spoke to the New Mexico Association of Counties meeting in Deming (the Association passed a resolution supporting TPLA):

Carl Graham of Coalition for Self Government in the West & Paul Gessing of RGF speak at New Mexico Association of Counties event from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico covered the Albuquerque event and interviewed Graham here.

More information will certainly follow on this important issue.

Federal energy policy regulator could negatively impact New Mexico

Though many New Mexicans may not be aware of it, especially given our state’s ongoing economic struggles, New Mexico is in the midst of a boom in energy development. New Mexico has vast deposits of oil and gas that can help our state transcend its struggling economy, leading to better jobs and higher wages.

Just ask the people of North Dakota, whose oil and gas production has resulted in an unemployment rate of less than 3% and fast-food workers being hired at $15 per hour. How important is New Mexico’s energy development? Nearly one-third of all state funding to public schools, as well as to New Mexico’s higher-education institutions, comes from taxes, royalties and fees paid by oil-and-gas operations around the state.

The main threat to New Mexico reaping this huge windfall is an anti-oil and gas movement in our nation’s capital, the same one that has put the Keystone Pipeline project in limbo. Leading this charge is Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who wants hand-picked energy novice Norman Bay to lead the country’s premier energy agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). With Bay at the helm of FERC, New Mexico’s energy boom can be stopped,

Conservative Ideas for New Mexico’s Legislators and Candidates to Get Elected and Govern By

When it comes to government in a democracy, it is far easier to play the role of Santa Clause than Uncle Scrooge. In other words, it is easier to say “yes” than it is to say “no” when it comes to spending other peoples’ money and using government regulations to benefit special interest groups. As any parent knows, saying “yes” feels better in the short-run, but saying “no” is often better in the long-run.

“Unfortunately,” says Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing, “New Mexico policymakers have been saying ‘yes’ for too long and needs a healthy helping of ‘no’ when it comes to government spending and regulations. The good news,” says Gessing “is that there are many free market policies that would be good for New Mexico’s economy and education system while also being quite popular with average voters.”

The Rio Grande Foundation has compiled some of the best of these ideas into a list entitled, Common-Sense Ideas for a Conservative Majority in the New Mexico House. This paper is available at our website and it includes specific policy ideas and relevant polling data and arguments that should make these ideas a proverbial “slam-dunk.”

The document should be an invaluable resource as conservatives look to gain control of New Mexico’s House of Representatives for the first time in more than 60 years. Several of the ideas outlined have been introduced as legislation in the past including elimination of 3rd grade social promotion and creation of a system of tax credits for school choice. Ending “worker’s compensation” payments to drunk or drugged workers who injure themselves on the job and taking action to restore federally-controlled lands in New Mexico to state control are also included.

Other ideas involve opening New Mexico government to greater public involvement by eliminating unnecessary signature requirements for New Mexico’s volunteer legislature (or at least making the requirements equitable among the various political parties) and allowing for remote testimony in legislative committees.

Lastly, the Rio Grande Foundation offers several popular and free market reform ideas that have been implemented in other states. Such ideas include amending New Mexico’s Constitution to require voter approval for all tax hikes at the state or local levels, repealing New Mexico’s onerous “prevailing wage” law which increases construction costs for projects like roads and schools by 15 percent or more, and shifting all new government workers out of New Mexico’s failing “defined benefit” pension plan and into user-controlled-and-directed “defined contribution” plans.

Purchase of gas company would benefit economy

What if I told you that a business was planning to make close to a billion dollar investment in New Mexico? What if I told you that this company is a leader of may be a potential revolution in automobile fueling and technology and that they could help our state make the transition to cleaner, more affordable fuel for automobiles?

No, I’m not talking about Tesla which has, aside from the recent exploits of local basketball teams, been the talk of the state. I’m talking about the proposed purchase of New Mexico Gas Co. (NMGC), currently owned by New York City-based Continental Energy by Tampa-based TECO Energy.

Bringing Tesla to New Mexico could be a home run for New Mexico’s economy, but having a natural gas company that is owned by a utility company with a 115 year track record of serving its customers – as opposed to a hedge fund – could be at least a double.

For those who are concerned about rates and prices, TECO has proposed that NMGC customer rates will be frozen until at least July 2017. NMGC will retain its name, and its headquarters will remain in Albuquerque. While New Mexico’s economy has struggled mightily in recent years, TECO’s management is “bullish” on New Mexico. The company’s CEO John Ramil recently was quoted as saying, “The Company is looking at New Mexico to be a growing state, and New Mexico Gas Co. to continue its growth.
Given the onslaught of negative economic news from our state in recent years, it is wonderful to have a business that sees our state’s growth potential looking to come here and invest.

A positive attitude is an important factor, but the real potential for New Mexico lies in TECO’s willingness to replicate its successful Florida model of investing in filling stations for vehicles that use clean natural gas produced right here in New Mexico. Due to broader market forces and newly-discovered supplies, natural gas prices remain at historically-low levels, spurring calls for increased investments in fueling stations.

In fact, whether the fuel in question is gasoline, electricity, or natural gas, a large national network of filling stations is an absolute necessity in order for alternative fuels to become widespread.

TECO has a proven track record and stated interest in investing in infrastructure and the communities it serves. NMGC which is currently owned by a hedge fund with a business model that involves purchasing and “flipping” under-valued assets is unlikely to make such investments.

One final point on the importance of the NMGC sale is the need for government bodies to respect free markets and a business’ desire to sell a company that does business in New Mexico to another business. It is one thing for regulatory bodies to stand in the way of such transactions for tangible, specific reasons. It is another thing to stand in front of these business transactions out of abstract fears.

My organization has worked assiduously to research and explain how New Mexico can improve its economy. While there are myriad issues to overcome before our state becomes truly business-friendly, there is no easier way to become a pariah among investors and businesses than to be seen as a place where once you have invested resources, you are unable to sell those investments.

Venezuela and Argentina are just two nations whose economies have suffered greatly from such capricious state actions. New Mexico should not fall into that trap.

Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility

Rio Grande Foundation submits comments to NM PRC in support of NM Gas Co. sale to TECO Energy

New Mexico Public Regulation Commission
PO Box 1269
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1269
Case number: 13-00231-UT
prc [dot] records [at] state [dot] nm [dot] us

Comments to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission on the purchase of New Mexico Gas by TECO Energy

On behalf of the Rio Grande Foundation, utility customers, and advocates of freedom throughout New Mexico, I urge you to approve of the proposed TECO purchase of New Mexico Gas Co.

For starters, New Mexico Gas is currently owned by an equity or hedge fund. This was always expected to be a temporary situation. It would be far better for New Mexico Gas to be owned by TECO, a utility company with a 115 year track record of serving its customers.

For those who are concerned about rates and prices, TECO has proposed that NMGC customer rates will be frozen until at least July 2017. NMGC will retain its name, and its headquarters will remain in Albuquerque. While New Mexico’s economy has struggled mightily in recent years, TECO’s management is “bullish” on New Mexico. The company’s CEO John Ramil recently was quoted as saying, “The Company is looking at New Mexico to be a growing state, and New Mexico Gas Co. to continue its growth.
Given the onslaught of negative economic news from our state in recent years, it is wonderful to have a business that sees our state’s growth potential looking to come here and invest.

A positive attitude is an important factor, but the real potential for New Mexico lies in TECO’s willingness to replicate its successful Florida model of investing in filling stations for vehicles that use clean natural gas produced right here in New Mexico. Due to broader market forces and newly-discovered supplies, natural gas prices remain at historically-low levels, spurring calls for increased investments in fueling stations.

In fact, whether the fuel in question is gasoline, electricity, or natural gas, a large national network of filling stations is an absolute necessity in order for alternative fuels to become widespread.

TECO has a proven track record and stated interest in investing in infrastructure and the communities it serves. NMGC which is currently owned by a hedge fund with a business model that involves purchasing and “flipping” under-valued assets is unlikely to make such investments.

One final point on the importance of the NMGC sale is the need for government bodies to respect free markets and a business’ desire to sell a company that does business in New Mexico to another business. It is one thing for regulatory bodies to stand in the way of such transactions for tangible, specific reasons. It is another thing to stand in front of these business transactions out of abstract fears.

My organization has worked assiduously to research and explain how New Mexico can improve its economy. While there are myriad issues to overcome before our state becomes truly business-friendly, there is no easier way to become a pariah among investors and businesses than to be seen as a place where once you have invested resources, you are unable to sell those investments.

Venezuela and Argentina are just two nations whose economies have suffered greatly from such capricious state actions. New Mexico should not fall into that trap.

I urge the PRC to allow the proposed sale to go through.

Sincerely,

Paul J. Gessing
President
Rio Grande Foundation
PO Box 40336
Albuquerque, NM 87196
505-264-6090

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