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Earth Day Commentary: New Mexico is Uniquely Positioned to Lead on Climate Change Solutions

Credit Gila River

Gordon West, Founder, CEO and CTO of TrollWorks, a Silver City-based company focused on bioenergy + carbon capture and sequestration, released the following commentary regarding Earth Day 2021:

New Mexico is feeling the impacts of climate change with severe drought and increased risk of wildfires becoming the new norm, but we’re also uniquely positioned to lead on solutions to climate change.

On this Earth Day, we should both recognize the challenges presented by climate change, celebrate the progress that’s been made, and look to the actions that must be taken to reduce our carbon emissions and transition to a clean energy economy. It’s going to take innovation and new technologies from the private sector coupled with strong policies and investments from all levels of government.

Our company, The Trollworks, is a new startup R&D company located in Silver City, NM, is one such example. With a focus on the development and manufacturing of small biomass energy systems that make “biochar” as a co-product, which is a valuable soil amendment made by heating woody biomass and can persist for hundreds of years in the soil, sequestering three tons of CO2 for every ton of biochar. This carbon is “mined” from the atmosphere by the plants that are used for making the biochar, making it a seriously carbon negative product.

While Trollworks is new, it is born of three decades of community-based forest restoration efforts, and is carefully designed to provide a broad range of opportunities for local economic benefit and jobs creation - while restoring environmental health. This is a great model for a ‘Green New Deal’ that won’t require long-term subsidies and can play a key role in the President Joe Biden’s proposed Civilian Climate Corps. We need things that all people can participate in, in concert with changing our buying habits and advocating for political and policy change - biochar+energy has the potential to allow millions of Americans to participate in solutions to our energy and climate challenges.

But policy change is also critical, and we’re lucky to have leaders at the state and national level leading this fight. President Biden’s commitment to re-entering the Paris Agreement that would set the nation on a path to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 and decarbonize the U.S. economy by 2050. This is ambitious, but it is achievable.

The President’s Build Back Better plan makes record investments in much needed clean energy infrastructure that builds out the groundwork needed to achieve these goals.

Here in New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has committed to reducing our state’s emissions by 45% by 2030, a great goal. The Governor’s strong commitment to taking full advantage of our massive renewable energy potential here in New Mexico is essential to meeting this goal, and will help to diversify our state’s economy when it has become obvious that our dependence on oil and gas is dangerous for our climate, health, and economy.

Managing our state’s transition away from oil and gas is a difficult but necessary task, and we must take proactive steps to make that transition as smooth as possible for the communities that depend on those jobs and revenues. President Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland understand that and have made it a critical component of the federal oil and gas program review. New Mexico should engage in this conversation with the goal of building out solutions that reduce our carbon emissions, support our communities, and diversify our economy.

Tackling climate change will require using all the tools we have in the toolbox, from burgeoning technologies like biochar to offshore wind turbines. Embracing new technologies and big policy shifts will help to set our state on a more sustainable path, addressing the dual challenges of climate change and economic development.