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By Carla J. Sonntag
President and Founder, New Mexico Business Coalition

As American business continues to move into an ever-evolving 21st century economic landscape, the role of local and grassroots movements has emerged as a principal factor in local economies. As American citizens and stewards of our country’s future, we are all obliged to educate ourselves on current civil, economic, and legislative issues, and to help carry forward our ideals to ensure a better tomorrow for our children. This has always been the American way, and it has helped make us the greatest country on Earth.

At the New Mexico Business Coalition, we focus specifically on advocating for pro-business legislation and educating elected officials, whether local or national. As a grassroots, non-profit, non-partisan organization, we pride ourselves on viewing issues clearly and without bias. To this end, the recent surge of natural gas in transportation, heating, and electricity has won our attention, and we consider advocating on natural gas’s behalf a top priority.

The link between natural gas and the future of New Mexico’s economy could not be clearer. Holding nearly 5% of the US natural gas reserves, New Mexico is the sixth largest natural gas-producing state, and exports nearly 80% of its gas to other states. The economic benefits associated with such numbers cannot be overemphasized—natural gas is responsible for thousands of jobs and millions of dollars annually in New Mexico revenue.

Aside from being a cornerstone of the New Mexican economy, natural gas has experienced a major production uptick over the last decade, and represents a shifting attitude in the way Americans view US energy. The movement toward cleaner, sustainable energy sources has been led largely by the natural gas movement. When used as an energy source, natural gas releases up to 20-30% less CO2 than oil, and as much as 50% less CO2 than coal. More, natural gas usage has been shown to be directly linked to reduced US carbon emissions: as production has increased 50% since 2005, our country has seen its total greenhouse gas emissions dip 11%.

Being a leading clean energy resource, natural gas provides the perfect complement to still-developing clean energy technologies such as wind and solar power, as it can provide reliable power when wind and solar are not available. Natural gas is one of our most abundant natural resources; deposits in America are greater and more accessible than in any other country on earth. And as the number one producer of natural gas worldwide, the US has enough natural gas to meet its energy demands for the next 100 years.

With such an abundant and readily-available resource, America’s shift toward natural gas is easy to understand. The economic benefit of this shift has been profound—in 2015, expanded access to natural gas deposits helped add 1.9 million new jobs to the American economy, and resulted in an average annual savings of $1,337 in utility bill savings to American families. Considering the abundance of New Mexico’s natural gas deposits, and its ability to export surplus product, our state is well prepared to benefit from the continuing nationwide natural gas movement.

The everyday, practical benefits of natural gas are vital to our state as well. Two-thirds of New Mexico households already use natural gas to heat their homes. Currently, about sixty-two million households nationwide use natural gas to heat their homes and cook their dinners, to dry their clothes and warm their water; and American families save an average of $900 annually when using natural gas compared with other energy sources. Take a moment and put those two numbers together—the savings speak for themselves.

As New Mexicans, we have a proud history of embracing that which is good for our great state. Our state motto—crescit eundo, or “it grows as it goes”—suggests the tendency to adapt and evolve with time and innovation. So as we look to the future, and to the future of New Mexico’s economy, it is imperative that we remain current and informed. Natural gas is a gift that our state does not take for granted, and we have been very wise indeed to keep it that way.

The New Mexico Business Coalition (NMBC) is a statewide nonprofit association that works to improve the business environment for companies and the quality of life for all New Mexicans. As the state affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturers, NMBC’s nonpartisan educational efforts focus on providing New Mexicans facts about issues that impact life in New Mexico.