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Lower bills, cleaner air, what’s not to like?

Senator Martin Heinrich (D) New Mexico

  Commentary: You have to give Paul Gessing points for creativity.  It takes enormous confidence in how much you can stretch the truth to turn a voluntary rebate program that lowers your monthly utility bill, improves your family’s indoor air quality and puts local plumbers and electricians to work into a doom’s day scenario.


If the climate crisis wasn’t so dire, his hyperbole might be funny.  It represents the lengths to which dark money organizations like the Rio Grande Foundation will go so that their donors can squeeze a few more dollars of profit out of obsolete technologies that caused the climate crisis in the first place.


Most New Mexicans realize the risk that an overheated climate poses to everything we hold dear.  From smoke choked skies, to empty reservoirs, to biblical floods when it finally does rain, it’s hard to miss.  It’s such a large problem, often it feels like you can’t make a difference.  But you can!


As someone who spent years studying engineering, I learned to break problems down into manageable pieces.  When you do that with energy, you realize that nearly 40% of our greenhouse gas emissions (read pollution) come from a handful of decisions that each of us make around the kitchen table when you buy a new furnace, water heater, car or stove.  Thirty years ago, the most efficient device in nearly all of these cases was a high efficiency fossil fuel device.


Today, there are dramatically better electric alternatives.  In addition to being more efficient, we have learned that burning fossil fuels like “natural” gas or home heating oil in our homes is really bad for indoor air quality.  Even if you have properly vented appliances, which in reality many of our homes don’t even have a hood for their gas range, the impacts can be quite severe.  That is especially true if you have a family member with asthma or other respiratory conditions. 


Let me give you just one example.  I just replaced a gas hot water heater in my house in Albuquerque.  My new hot water heater is nothing like the gas one it replaced and nothing like the electric water heater I had growing up.  Instead of heating up a resistance coil, this water heater uses an electric heat pump. Rather than directly heating the water, it actually moves heat from the air, concentrates it and dumps that heat into the water.  So instead of spending $200-500 per year for all those showers my teenagers take, I’ll be spending on the order of $150. 


There is a catch.  The up-front cost of this better technology is a few hundred dollars more and that’s exactly why I have legislation to create a point-of-sale rebate for these types of appliances. So that any New Mexican who wants to do the right thing for the climate (and their wallet) will save money on day one.


In addition, in New Mexico we are cleaning up the electricity that goes onto the grid in the first place. Which means that when you go with high efficiency electric solutions, you are putting us on the path to a zero-emission economy, making your home’s air safer and supporting the plumbers and electricians that install these devices. 


In Congress, my colleagues often wring their hands about how we can’t solve the climate crisis because we haven’t solved every hard to decarbonize problem.  That misses the point.  We have the solution in hand to decarbonize 80% of the economy.  Let’s implement those solutions while we continue to find better and cheaper solutions to address that last 20%.


The electrification of our homes and businesses is one of those 80% solutions we can start on today.