Submitted by Former State Representative Joseph Sanchez

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As a state that is no stranger to energy production, New Mexico has the unique opportunity to become a world leader in clean hydrogen. It has been encouraging to see the likes of Governor Lujan Grisham and state lawmakers take aggressive action, despite the latest legislative maneuvering, to promote the development of hydrogen and work toward both the Governor’s and President Biden’s goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. The White House included $8 billion for hydrogen development in the federal infrastructure bill signed into law last year, offering an additional $1 billion for states that become “hydrogen hubs.”

Given that is the most abundant element in the universe, it is essential to understand what hydrogen can mean for New Mexico. Our state has a chance to get in on the ground floor of an emerging sector that will be economically and environmentally critical for years to come.

Clean hydrogen refers to the process of separating hydrogen from natural gas by capturing carbon dioxide and storing it underground. The remaining hydrogen can then be used as an alternative fuel source. Our state has long been a nationwide leader in oil and gas production, and by incorporating clean hydrogen into our energy portfolio, our communities can continue to benefit from energy revenues and jobs while making a dent in our pursuit toward a low-emissions future.

Whether it is power generation to provide the electricity needed to charge our phones and tablets, fuel for the freight trucking and transportation industry that is used to keep our store shelves stocked, or an alternative energy source for the heavy manufacturing of goods like cement and steel that are used to build our cities and towns, clean hydrogen can be implemented into our economy in a multitude of ways.

But to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, strategic investments into further developing hydrogen technologies are important. Not only do we need to take advantage of the nearly $8 billion the Biden Administration has earmarked for the creation of hydrogen hubs, but we also need to take actions of our own at the state level or we risk stagnating our energy revenues and economy.

Creating a business and regulatory environment that welcomes investments into hydrogen within our state is the first step toward building a potential hydrogen hub. Doing things such as offering tax incentives and public-private partnerships are crucial in competing for the attention of those in the top business ranks of the hydrogen world.

For years our state has seen the economic benefit the oil and gas industry has brought to us in the form of funding for schools, hospitals, tribal communities, and conservation efforts in addition to thousands of jobs. In 2021, the energy industry contributed approximately $2.96 billion to our state budget, which is nearly 35 percent of the entire budget. Investing in new energy sources like clean hydrogen not only offers us the ability to protect our state’s natural beauty but also the economic revenue needed to keep our local communities thriving. 

Editor’s Note: Joseph Sanchez is a former member of the New Mexico House of Representatives and the Chairman of Sustainable New Mexico.