War on Drugs discussion at Otero County Fair

July 31, 2010

Members of Tsobol Antzetik (Women United), healing
a cooperative of Mayan weavers working to support their families by selling their products in the U.S. for fair trade prices.
Photo by Rebecca Wiggins

By Crystal Massey and Rebecca Wiggins

In June of 2010, Sophia’s Circle/Las Cruces Chiapas Connection sent a delegation of four people to the highlands of Chiapas to visit weaving cooperatives. Over a period of two weeks, we listened to their concerns, shared in their laughter and learned about their goals. Following is an account of our visit.

The day was dawning bright and beautiful as 19-year-old Luz strapped on her tumpline, securing an eight-gallon container of water to her back with a band across her forehead supporting its weight. She then quickly set off for home, navigating the foot trails slick with summer rains that led to her house in a small community located in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.

Getting water from a communal spigot is a chore she performs several times a day. Her home has no running water. In order to wash clothes, bathe and clean, she must carry it from a location near the school. Though Chiapas contains nearly 50 percent of Mexico’s watershed, many indigenous families like Luz’s do not have direct access to clean, potable water and, unless they have water catchment systems, must carry it for long distances.

Luz and her mother are members of Tsobol Antzetik (Women United), a cooperative of Mayan weavers working to support their families by selling their products in the U.S. for fair trade prices. The women of Tsobol Antzetik are artists, breadwinners, active community members, mothers, sisters, daughters, teachers and grandmothers. Some are Abejas (a Catholic social justice organization), and others are members of the support bases of the EZLN (the Zapatista Army of National Liberation). All of these women are part of the resistance, which means they take no handouts from a government they believe is corrupt. They do not participate in traditional politics.

They and many others believe that giving handouts is a strategy used to coerce and control rural communities. Only those who officially support the government receive assistance. Stark reminders of these tactics are visible in the communities we visited. Following Luz back home, we gingerly stepped over pipes carrying water through other families’ corn fields. In addition, in her community a new health clinic is under construction, its modern concrete walls and design a clear indicator of something new and promising. The clinic is part of the government’s anti-poverty program, Oportunidades (Opportunities). According to the World Bank, the program’s focus is to provide aid to rural and urban communities by helping improve the education, health and nutrition of their families. Monthly grants are provided to keep children in school rather than working in the fields, basic health care and preventative care is provided, and nutritional supplements and stipends given out. Because she is part of the resistance, Luz will never have access to this clinic.

Ana is a weaver in the co-op. When we first arrived, her 10-month-old baby had not yet been named. It is common for people in this community to wait at least six months to a year before naming their children, since highly marginalized rural indigenous communities in Chiapas face an infant mortality rate of 75 deaths per 1000. Norma was named three days before her baptism. The government’s solution to high infant mortality: Oportunidades, which Mexican President Calderón describes as an “advance towards combating the poverty suffered by our people and above all, to guarantee better access to health conditions.”

But Oportunidades is described by sociologist Molly Talcott as “…essentially sterilizing women and attempting to contain women’s resistances [sic] by enlisting them in a small cash assistance program, which in these times, is badly needed.” In 2003, a Mexican newspaper reported that health care workers employed by IMSS-Oportunidades, have to meet sterilization quotas. Sixty-one percent of families in Chiapas use Oportunidades.

One of the ways to combat the challenges of living in the resistance is by weaving. Children, women and men often create artisan products to help supplement their family’s income. Every spare minute of each day is spent working on these items, in between preparing food, working in the fields, taking care of children and other household chores. On a typical day Ana gets up at approximately 4 a.m. She goes to the kitchen and grinds corn into nixtamal for tortillas, and puts the beans that have been soaking all night onto the fire to cook. When there is a break during the day, Ana weaves. She usually works until 9 p.m., at which point the family gathers around the fire in the kitchen for the evening meal, talking and laughing until it is time to go to bed.

Las Cruces Chiapas Connection, an organization based in this border-area community, helps sell co-op members’ products by finding markets in the United States. The income generated by sales helps people remain on their lands and feed their families. It also provides an economic alternative for young men and women who often see migration as their only option. NAFTA and other development projects have displaced thousands of Mexicans, making it difficult for people to earn a living. Luz’s husband is currently working in Cancun, Mexico, in order to provide for his new family. She has not seen him in over nine months.

Juan, Ana’s son, finished sixth grade and worked for several months picking coffee with an uncle away from home. He hated it. He missed his family and his community. When he came back home a friend told him about a weaver in Acteal who was taking on apprentices. He worked for six months winding thread onto bobbins and three-and-a-half years as an apprentice. By January of 2010 he had the 6,000 pesos necessary to buy a loom of his own. He hopes that his weaving will contribute to his family’s income.

Chiapas, rich in natural resources, has long been a target for development by the Mexican government and foreign investors. Under the administration of Vicente Fox, Plan Puebla Panamá (PPP) was unveiled. Originating in 2001, the plan called for massive development and infrastructure projects, including a super highway running from southern Mexico to Colombia. It was received with resistance from various groups claiming that corporations were favored over people and that the region’s biodiversity would be ruined. Mexican Energy Secretary Georgina Kessel has announced plans to begin drilling for oil in the Lacandón Rainforest, home to several indigenous communities, many of whom are in the resistance. A report cited by Kessel estimates that 17,000 new wells could produce over 500,000 barrels per day by 2021.

In 2008 PPP was renamed as the Mesoamerica Project (MP). Officially, the MP promotes integration and development, focusing on energy, trade, sustainable development, tourism and transportation. Unofficially, MP calls for the removal of indigenous people from their lands in order to open them for capitalist development projects. In 2009 regional security was added as a key component of MP. This has led to increased military presence which in turn is used to quell social unrest.

Ana’s husband is worried about being forcibly moved off his land and put into a “rural city.” He fears that young people will lose their traditions because their identities are tied to the land. Former President Fox estimated that 80 percent of rural residents of southern Mexico would have to relocate for PPP to be successful. The government promotes “sustainable rural cities” as models of development complete with educational facilities, electricity and running water. Dr. Japhy Wilson tells us that “once relocated in the rural cities, the ‘dispersed population’ of the Chiapas peasantry will no longer [be able to] dedicate itself to self-sufficient production in the milpa, …instead [they will become landless laborers working for] large-scale agroindustrial plantations. These ‘intensive plantations’ will include commercial forests, tropical fruits and flowers, biofuels, cacao, and coffee. The strategy is perfectly consistent with the Plan Puebla Panamá.”

Indigenous communities in the heart of Chiapas are already organizing against the Mesoamerica Project. They are no strangers to resistance, and know the consequences of standing up to the government and paramilitary groups. In 1997, 45 women, men and children of Las Abejas were massacred as they prayed and fasted in church to end the violence in their community. Paramilitary groups sanctioned by the government to squash the rebellion of Zapatistas and their sympathizers committed the murders. Though some arrests were made, perpetrators were released by the federal courts in 2009. Nevertheless, Las Abejas has a march planned for sometime in the fall, where they will walk from their headquarters in Acteal to the government center in San Cristobal.

Being part of the resistance has brought a renewed sense of dignity to the indigenous people in Chiapas. It is a difficult life, but a proud one as well. Father Marcelo, the first indigenous priest in the region, told us that he was glad we had come because he thinks we can learn from indigenous peoples who have a special relationship with Mother Earth that others need to emulate if we are to avoid self-destruction as a species.

To learn more about PPP, MP and “rural cities” visit www.ciepac.org, bulletins 560, 561 and 562. See also www.lascruceschiapasconnection.com. For more on Oportunidades, http://geo-mexico.com/?tag=social-geography., INEGI 2005, Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición “Salvador Zubrán” UNICEF, http://www.banderasnews.com/1006/hbmesoamerica2015.htm .

Crystal Massey is a graduate student of Human Rights and Democracy at the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales in Mexico City, mother, wife, teacher and advocate for human rights.

Rebecca Wiggins is a doctoral student at UTEP, and a member of Las Cruces Chiapas Connection.
By Steve Klinger

We logged over 6, therapy
000 miles this summer, most of it on the road, but also 2,000 nautical miles, sailing from Seattle to Glacier Bay and back again on an Inside Passage cruise. For me it was a trip both forward and backward in time, seeing people and places entirely new to me, but also reacquainting with friends and relatives, including two classmates I hadn’t seen in about 40 years.

One of the new acquaintances was my grandson, Henry, who was less than a month old when I looked into his wide and innocent eyes in Denver. Thinking back on it, I wondered whether, when he is old enough to follow the itinerary we took, there will still be glaciers calving in Alaska. Maybe so, but probably a lot deeper in the fjords.

As for the wildlife we saw – gray and humpback whales, sea otters and bald eagles in Alaska, elk and bison in Yellowstone – I’m betting the number and variety of such creatures will be greatly diminished in another generation, and that’s a best-case scenario.

The health of the oceans, vast and impervious to human negligence though they seem, has been dealt a new blow by BP’s disaster in the Gulf, a soiling of ecosystems whose true scope may not be known for years. Although the gushing oil has been stopped for now, unproven and untested chemical dispersants have scattered the evidence and left less predictable toxins in their place, and some scientists believe a buildup of methane gas in the area of the damaged well is more worrisome than the crude. To the fish and sea turtles and birds, it matters not the enemy who vanquished them.

In Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau and then in Victoria, B.C. we saw remarkably beautiful creations of First Peoples, from the totem poles of the Tlingit to intricate, bright-hued rugs, wood carvings and articles of clothing (Tlingit, Inuit) that describe an utterly different relationship between these “primitive” civilizations and their sustaining planet than that of our own culture, whose main byproduct befouled Prince William Sound in 1989 and now the more southerly waters where the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank.

On our trip we used the marvelous gadgetry of 21st century America, including laptop computers and iPhones, to find lodgings, and restaurants and stay in touch with that part of the world we’d left behind, and we sailed in a modern floating city 11 stories high that contained a world unto itself, including a casino, numerous lounges and about four restaurants to feed our various addictions. We experienced the endangered wonders of just a corner of our planet as only modern travelers can, yet it was hard to forget that the same technology that put the world at our doorstep is also damaging the interconnected web of life systems on a vast scale, at a relentless pace.

We covered the great expanse of the Rockies and the Intermountain West in a few days’ time, thanks to the internal combustion engine and the fossil fuels that still power it, and we spent a month on the road, trying to find cuisine less poisonous than the standard restaurant fare of endless refined carbohydrates. We met a number of fellow travelers, mostly on the ship, who shared our frustration at the poorly concealed racism and mean-spirited rightwing backlash to the few diluted initiatives coming from the Party of Change. We met a lot of ordinary folks who obviously are having to make do with less than they used to have, but still have not connected the dots to see that belt-tightening won’t avoid the end-of-empire tsunami that will be washing their way in a year or ten or a hundred.

We gaped at the magnificence of Yosemite Falls as the bountiful snowmelt cascaded uproariously to the valley floor and Half Dome looked on impassively in shifting light and shadow. We smiled at the hordes with their digital cameras who had to position their loved ones in front of every natural wonder to prove for posterity and less fortunate relatives that they had established their own indelible bond of proximity with each landmark.

We stopped to read the signs that described the Native American settlements overrun by the white intruders who had the power to seize the beautiful territory they coveted, and how they attacked and banished these First Peoples (Paiute, Miwok, Chauchila, etc.) to inferior lands and bestowed their vices and diseases upon them, not to mention their places of worship, never seeing the irony of having unceremoniously evicted the native inhabitants from their own places of worship which were the lands they had settled.

When we finally made it home it was with wonder, weariness and some relief to discover our own home, still standing in the verdant shade of a hot July afternoon, a comforting oasis after leagues of open sea, after half a continent of forest and mountain, mesa and desert. Still standing but not removed from the contradictions of the world and the grand irony of human resourcefulness and genius, which has made nearly all things possible except the most important one: that harmonious, mindful oneness we lost in conquering those who lived it, lost in extracting minerals for economic gain, lost in disturbing the sacred rhythms of the greater order from which we arose – and now are losing ourselves in the process. For our collective journey of conquest and self-interest is rapidly taking us to that scenic overlook in the evolutionary road where the sign ahead can’t be missed: Dead End.
By Steve Klinger

We logged over 6, more about
000 miles this summer, seek most of it on the road, but also 2,000 nautical miles, sailing from Seattle to Glacier Bay and back again on an Inside Passage cruise. For me it was a trip both forward and backward in time, seeing people and places entirely new to me, but also reacquainting with friends and relatives, including two classmates I hadn’t seen in about 40 years.

One of the new acquaintances was my grandson, Henry, who was less than a month old when I looked into his wide and innocent eyes in Denver. Thinking back on it, I wondered whether, when he is old enough to follow the itinerary we took, there will still be glaciers calving in Alaska. Maybe so, but probably a lot deeper in the fjords.

As for the wildlife we saw – gray and humpback whales, sea otters and bald eagles in Alaska, elk and bison in Yellowstone – I’m betting the number and variety of such creatures will be greatly diminished in another generation, and that’s a best-case scenario.

The health of the oceans, vast and impervious to human negligence though they seem, has been dealt a new blow by BP’s disaster in the Gulf, a soiling of ecosystems whose true scope may not be known for years. Although the gushing oil has been stopped for now, unproven and untested chemical dispersants have scattered the evidence and left less predictable toxins in their place, and some scientists believe a buildup of methane gas in the area of the damaged well is more worrisome than the crude. To the fish and sea turtles and birds, it matters not the enemy who vanquished them.

In Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau and then in Victoria, B.C. we saw remarkably beautiful creations of First Peoples, from the totem poles of the Tlingit to intricate, bright-hued rugs, wood carvings and articles of clothing (Tlingit, Inuit) that describe an utterly different relationship between these “primitive” civilizations and their sustaining planet than that of our own culture, whose main byproduct befouled Prince William Sound in 1989 and now the more southerly waters where the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank.

On our trip we used the marvelous gadgetry of 21st century America, including laptop computers and iPhones, to find lodgings, and restaurants and stay in touch with that part of the world we’d left behind, and we sailed in a modern floating city 11 stories high that contained a world unto itself, including a casino, numerous lounges and about four restaurants to feed our various addictions. We experienced the endangered wonders of just a corner of our planet as only modern travelers can, yet it was hard to forget that the same technology that put the world at our doorstep is also damaging the interconnected web of life systems on a vast scale, at a relentless pace.

We covered the great expanse of the Rockies and the Intermountain West in a few days’ time, thanks to the internal combustion engine and the fossil fuels that still power it, and we spent a month on the road, trying to find cuisine less poisonous than the standard restaurant fare of endless refined carbohydrates. We met a number of fellow travelers, mostly on the ship, who shared our frustration at the poorly concealed racism and mean-spirited rightwing backlash to the few diluted initiatives coming from the Party of Change. We met a lot of ordinary folks who obviously are having to make do with less than they used to have, but still have not connected the dots to see that belt-tightening won’t avoid the end-of-empire tsunami that will be washing their way in a year or ten or a hundred.

We gaped at the magnificence of Yosemite Falls as the bountiful snowmelt cascaded uproariously to the valley floor and Half Dome looked on impassively in shifting light and shadow. We smiled at the hordes with their digital cameras who had to position their loved ones in front of every natural wonder to prove for posterity and less fortunate relatives that they had established their own indelible bond of proximity with each landmark.

We stopped to read the signs that described the Native American settlements overrun by the white intruders who had the power to seize the beautiful territory they coveted, and how they attacked and banished these First Peoples (Paiute, Miwok, Chauchila, etc.) to inferior lands and bestowed their vices and diseases upon them, not to mention their places of worship, never seeing the irony of having unceremoniously evicted the native inhabitants from their own places of worship which were the lands they had settled.

When we finally made it home it was with wonder, weariness and some relief to discover our own home, still standing in the verdant shade of a hot July afternoon, a comforting oasis after leagues of open sea, after half a continent of forest and mountain, mesa and desert. Still standing but not removed from the contradictions of the world and the grand irony of human resourcefulness and genius, which has made nearly all things possible except the most important one: that harmonious, mindful oneness we lost in conquering those who lived it, lost in extracting minerals for economic gain, lost in disturbing the sacred rhythms of the greater order from which we arose – and now are losing ourselves in the process. For our collective journey of conquest and self-interest is rapidly taking us to that scenic overlook in the evolutionary road where the sign ahead can’t be missed: Dead End.
By Steve Klinger

We logged over 6, pharm
000 miles this summer, more
most of it on the road, remedy but also 2,000 nautical miles, sailing from Seattle to Glacier Bay and back again on an Inside Passage cruise. For me it was a trip both forward and backward in time, seeing people and places entirely new to me, but also reacquainting with friends and relatives, including two classmates I hadn’t seen in about 40 years.

One of the new acquaintances was my grandson, Henry, who was less than a month old when I looked into his wide and innocent eyes in Denver. Thinking back on it, I wondered whether, when he is old enough to follow the itinerary we took, there will still be glaciers calving in Alaska. Maybe so, but probably a lot deeper in the fjords.

As for the wildlife we saw – gray and humpback whales, sea otters and bald eagles in Alaska, elk and bison in Yellowstone – I’m betting the number and variety of such creatures will be greatly diminished in another generation, and that’s a best-case scenario.

The health of the oceans, vast and impervious to human negligence though they seem, has been dealt a new blow by BP’s disaster in the Gulf, a soiling of ecosystems whose true scope may not be known for years. Although the gushing oil has been stopped for now, unproven and untested chemical dispersants have scattered the evidence and left less predictable toxins in their place, and some scientists believe a buildup of methane gas in the area of the damaged well is more worrisome than the crude. To the fish and sea turtles and birds, it matters not the enemy who vanquished them.

In Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau and then in Victoria, B.C. we saw remarkably beautiful creations of First Peoples, from the totem poles of the Tlingit to intricate, bright-hued rugs, wood carvings and articles of clothing (Tlingit, Inuit) that describe an utterly different relationship between these “primitive” civilizations and their sustaining planet than that of our own culture, whose main byproduct befouled Prince William Sound in 1989 and now the more southerly waters where the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank.

On our trip we used the marvelous gadgetry of 21st century America, including laptop computers and iPhones, to find lodgings, and restaurants and stay in touch with that part of the world we’d left behind, and we sailed in a modern floating city 11 stories high that contained a world unto itself, including a casino, numerous lounges and about four restaurants to feed our various addictions. We experienced the endangered wonders of just a corner of our planet as only modern travelers can, yet it was hard to forget that the same technology that put the world at our doorstep is also damaging the interconnected web of life systems on a vast scale, at a relentless pace.

We covered the great expanse of the Rockies and the Intermountain West in a few days’ time, thanks to the internal combustion engine and the fossil fuels that still power it, and we spent a month on the road, trying to find cuisine less poisonous than the standard restaurant fare of endless refined carbohydrates. We met a number of fellow travelers, mostly on the ship, who shared our frustration at the poorly concealed racism and mean-spirited rightwing backlash to the few diluted initiatives coming from the Party of Change. We met a lot of ordinary folks who obviously are having to make do with less than they used to have, but still have not connected the dots to see that belt-tightening won’t avoid the end-of-empire tsunami that will be washing their way in a year or ten or a hundred.

We gaped at the magnificence of Yosemite Falls as the bountiful snowmelt cascaded uproariously to the valley floor and Half Dome looked on impassively in shifting light and shadow. We smiled at the hordes with their digital cameras who had to position their loved ones in front of every natural wonder to prove for posterity and less fortunate relatives that they had established their own indelible bond of proximity with each landmark.

We stopped to read the signs that described the Native American settlements overrun by the white intruders who had the power to seize the beautiful territory they coveted, and how they attacked and banished these First Peoples (Paiute, Miwok, Chauchila, etc.) to inferior lands and bestowed their vices and diseases upon them, not to mention their places of worship, never seeing the irony of having unceremoniously evicted the native inhabitants from their own places of worship which were the lands they had settled.

When we finally made it home it was with wonder, weariness and some relief to discover our own home, still standing in the verdant shade of a hot July afternoon, a comforting oasis after leagues of open sea, after half a continent of forest and mountain, mesa and desert. Still standing but not removed from the contradictions of the world and the grand irony of human resourcefulness and genius, which has made nearly all things possible except the most important one: that harmonious, mindful oneness we lost in conquering those who lived it, lost in extracting minerals for economic gain, lost in disturbing the sacred rhythms of the greater order from which we arose – and now are losing ourselves in the process. For our collective journey of conquest and self-interest is rapidly taking us to that scenic overlook in the evolutionary road where the sign ahead can’t be missed: Dead End.
By Steve Fischmann
Adding new electric generating capacity is expensive.  Data from New Mexico’s largest electric utility, salve
PNM, this web
shows that it costs $150 per megawatt hour to add new natural gas power generating capacity, $140 to add coal power, $130 for nuclear, and $85  for wind.  New generation is so costly that whenever new capacity is added electric rates go up.

By contrast, installation of energy efficiency measures costs about $20 dollars per megawatt- hour saved according to PNM.  In other words, electric consumers save somewhere between 75% and 87% when we invest in efficiency rather than building new electric plants.  Efficiency also largely eliminates the pollution, health, noise, and landscape impacts that come with new power generation.

Energy efficiency should be an equal partner with renewable development in our policies, but currently gets short shrift.  New Mexico Law requires that 20% of our year 2020 power generation from investor owned utilities come from renewable technologies, but asks for only a 10% improvement in energy efficiency during the same time period.

It’s easy to see how this came to pass.  The cost of wasting energy seems inconsequential for years until consumers are hit with the cost of a half billion dollar generating facility to meet growing demand.   We are lulled into complacency.  In contrast, the cost of implementing efficiency measures hits immediately.  Locked in a cycle of false economy, we balk at making the two dollar efficiency investment today and instead are forced into a ten dollar generation investment tomorrow.

We can dramatically improve adoption of energy efficiency without expensive government programs, or raising overall utility rates.  All it takes are revenue neutral changes in the way we charge for power.  Water utilities in El Paso, Santa Fe, and to a lesser degree Las Cruces have all experienced success using this strategy to reduce water usage.  It is time we applied the same common sense to our gas and electric utilities.

Power companies have historically charged lower rates to high usage customers.  The theory was that it is less expensive per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to service big consumers.  If you look a few years out that theory falls apart.  That profligate neighbor down the street who runs the air conditioner with the windows open, and never turns off the lights or the TV, is the same guy who makes it necessary to add expensive new electric generation.  In return for his low bills, that guy costs everyone else a bundle.  To add insult to injury, the low cost of wasting electricity has given home builders and appliance makers little incentive to design efficient products.  That has further inflated our energy bills.

Three pricing strategies for residential customers have the power to drive market based energy efficiency that will result in lower future utility bills.

Inclining Block Rates:  An example of this billing model would be charging residences 10 cents per kWh for the first 400 KWH of monthly power usage, 20 cents for the next 400 kWh,  and 30 cents per KWH for any additional usage.  While total billings would be no higher than charging a flat 20 cent rate, the savings for eliminating high cost usage above 800 kWh makes adopting efficiency measures very attractive.  Installing sun shades, CFL lighting, and efficient appliances suddenly becomes a fast payback.  And that guy down the street?  Odds are he will stop running his air conditioner with the windows open.

Decoupling:  This strategy has been implemented successfully in twelve states.  Utilities currently earn more money the more power they sell.  This has encouraged marketing practices that entice consumers to use more electricity.  Decoupling allows regulators to tie utility revenues to the number of residential customers served -rather than kWh delivered- through a monthly billing adjustment.  This gives utilities the opportunity to earn just as much money by selling fewer kWh, insulates consumers from big swings in energy costs during unusually hot or cold years, and maintains a stable bottom line that allows utilities to continue reliable service.

Eliminating Fixed Monthly Charges:  If my monthly electrical bill is $80, but $20 comes via a fixed monthly charge, my efficiency efforts can only affect the remaining $60 on my bill.  The fixed charge penalizes consumers who conserve electricity by effectively charging them more per KWH consumed.  It also puts a bigger burden on low income consumers.  Since the data tells us energy efficiency is the surest route to minimizing monthly utility bills and long term prices, regulators should require utilities to minimize fixed monthly charges and tie all charges to energy use instead.  Better yet, eliminate fixed monthly charges altogether.

The good news is that utilities such as PNM and El Paso Electric are more amenable to implementing inclining rates and decoupling than they have been in the past.  The bad news is that they threaten to undo the benefits of these strategies by pushing for higher fixed monthly charges.
The Public Regulation Commission can help contain utility price increases, improve our environment, and put money in your pocket by requiring implementation of all three pricing strategies.  Adopting phased in implementation of these strategies in annual increments would give utilities and consumers time to adapt while giving regulators an opportunity to adjust to any implementation surprises.   It is the best favor the commission can do for New Mexicans and our economy.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37, and chair of the interim Science and Technology Committee.

Waste Not, more about
Want Not. Smart Energy Pricing is Key
Adding new electric generating capacity is expensive.  Data from New Mexico’s largest electric utility, phlebologist
PNM, shows that it costs $150 per megawatt hour to add new natural gas power generating capacity, $140 to add coal power, $130 for nuclear, and $85  for wind.  New generation is so costly that whenever new capacity is added electric rates go up.

By contrast, installation of energy efficiency measures costs about $20 dollars per megawatt- hour saved according to PNM.  In other words, electric consumers save somewhere between 75% and 87% when we invest in efficiency rather than building new electric plants.  Efficiency also largely eliminates the pollution, health, noise, and landscape impacts that come with new power generation.

Energy efficiency should be an equal partner with renewable development in our policies, but currently gets short shrift.  New Mexico Law requires that 20% of our year 2020 power generation from investor owned utilities come from renewable technologies, but asks for only a 10% improvement in energy efficiency during the same time period.

It’s easy to see how this came to pass.  The cost of wasting energy seems inconsequential for years until consumers are hit with the cost of a half billion dollar generating facility to meet growing demand.   We are lulled into complacency.  In contrast, the cost of implementing efficiency measures hits immediately.  Locked in a cycle of false economy, we balk at making the two dollar efficiency investment today and instead are forced into a ten dollar generation investment tomorrow.

We can dramatically improve adoption of energy efficiency without expensive government programs, or raising overall utility rates.  All it takes are revenue neutral changes in the way we charge for power.  Water utilities in El Paso, Santa Fe, and to a lesser degree Las Cruces have all experienced success using this strategy to reduce water usage.  It is time we applied the same common sense to our gas and electric utilities.

Power companies have historically charged lower rates to high usage customers.  The theory was that it is less expensive per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to service big consumers.  If you look a few years out that theory falls apart.  That profligate neighbor down the street who runs the air conditioner with the windows open, and never turns off the lights or the TV, is the same guy who makes it necessary to add expensive new electric generation.  In return for his low bills, that guy costs everyone else a bundle.  To add insult to injury, the low cost of wasting electricity has given home builders and appliance makers little incentive to design efficient products.  That has further inflated our energy bills.

Three pricing strategies for residential customers have the power to drive market based energy efficiency that will result in lower future utility bills.

Inclining Block Rates:  An example of this billing model would be charging residences 10 cents per kWh for the first 400 KWH of monthly power usage, 20 cents for the next 400 kWh,  and 30 cents per KWH for any additional usage.  While total billings would be no higher than charging a flat 20 cent rate, the savings for eliminating high cost usage above 800 kWh makes adopting efficiency measures very attractive.  Installing sun shades, CFL lighting, and efficient appliances suddenly becomes a fast payback.  And that guy down the street?  Odds are he will stop running his air conditioner with the windows open.

Decoupling:  This strategy has been implemented successfully in twelve states.  Utilities currently earn more money the more power they sell.  This has encouraged marketing practices that entice consumers to use more electricity.  Decoupling allows regulators to tie utility revenues to the number of residential customers served -rather than kWh delivered- through a monthly billing adjustment.  This gives utilities the opportunity to earn just as much money by selling fewer kWh, insulates consumers from big swings in energy costs during unusually hot or cold years, and maintains a stable bottom line that allows utilities to continue reliable service.

Eliminating Fixed Monthly Charges:  If my monthly electrical bill is $80, but $20 comes via a fixed monthly charge, my efficiency efforts can only affect the remaining $60 on my bill.  The fixed charge penalizes consumers who conserve electricity by effectively charging them more per KWH consumed.  It also puts a bigger burden on low income consumers.  Since the data tells us energy efficiency is the surest route to minimizing monthly utility bills and long term prices, regulators should require utilities to minimize fixed monthly charges and tie all charges to energy use instead.  Better yet, eliminate fixed monthly charges altogether.

The good news is that utilities such as PNM and El Paso Electric are more amenable to implementing inclining rates and decoupling than they have been in the past.  The bad news is that they threaten to undo the benefits of these strategies by pushing for higher fixed monthly charges.
The Public Regulation Commission can help contain utility price increases, improve our environment, and put money in your pocket by requiring implementation of all three pricing strategies.  Adopting phased in implementation of these strategies in annual increments would give utilities and consumers time to adapt while giving regulators an opportunity to adjust to any implementation surprises.   It is the best favor the commission can do for New Mexicans and our economy.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37, and chair of the interim Science and Technology Committee.

By Steve Fischmann
Adding new electric generating capacity is expensive.  Data from New Mexico’s largest electric utility, physician
PNM, viagra 60mg
shows that it costs $150 per megawatt hour to add new natural gas power generating capacity, $140 to add coal power, $130 for nuclear, and $85  for wind.  New generation is so costly that whenever new capacity is added electric rates go up.

By contrast, installation of energy efficiency measures costs about $20 dollars per megawatt- hour saved according to PNM.  In other words, electric consumers save somewhere between 75% and 87% when we invest in efficiency rather than building new electric plants.  Efficiency also largely eliminates the pollution, health, noise, and landscape impacts that come with new power generation.

Energy efficiency should be an equal partner with renewable development in our policies, but currently gets short shrift.  New Mexico Law requires that 20% of our year 2020 power generation from investor owned utilities come from renewable technologies, but asks for only a 10% improvement in energy efficiency during the same time period.

It’s easy to see how this came to pass.  The cost of wasting energy seems inconsequential for years until consumers are hit with the cost of a half billion dollar generating facility to meet growing demand.   We are lulled into complacency.  In contrast, the cost of implementing efficiency measures hits immediately.  Locked in a cycle of false economy, we balk at making the two dollar efficiency investment today and instead are forced into a ten dollar generation investment tomorrow.

We can dramatically improve adoption of energy efficiency without expensive government programs, or raising overall utility rates.  All it takes are revenue neutral changes in the way we charge for power.  Water utilities in El Paso, Santa Fe, and to a lesser degree Las Cruces have all experienced success using this strategy to reduce water usage.  It is time we applied the same common sense to our gas and electric utilities.

Power companies have historically charged lower rates to high usage customers.  The theory was that it is less expensive per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to service big consumers.  If you look a few years out that theory falls apart.  That profligate neighbor down the street who runs the air conditioner with the windows open, and never turns off the lights or the TV, is the same guy who makes it necessary to add expensive new electric generation.  In return for his low bills, that guy costs everyone else a bundle.  To add insult to injury, the low cost of wasting electricity has given home builders and appliance makers little incentive to design efficient products.  That has further inflated our energy bills.

Three pricing strategies for residential customers have the power to drive market based energy efficiency that will result in lower future utility bills.

Inclining Block Rates:  An example of this billing model would be charging residences 10 cents per kWh for the first 400 KWH of monthly power usage, 20 cents for the next 400 kWh,  and 30 cents per KWH for any additional usage.  While total billings would be no higher than charging a flat 20 cent rate, the savings for eliminating high cost usage above 800 kWh makes adopting efficiency measures very attractive.  Installing sun shades, CFL lighting, and efficient appliances suddenly becomes a fast payback.  And that guy down the street?  Odds are he will stop running his air conditioner with the windows open.

Decoupling:  This strategy has been implemented successfully in twelve states.  Utilities currently earn more money the more power they sell.  This has encouraged marketing practices that entice consumers to use more electricity.  Decoupling allows regulators to tie utility revenues to the number of residential customers served -rather than kWh delivered- through a monthly billing adjustment.  This gives utilities the opportunity to earn just as much money by selling fewer kWh, insulates consumers from big swings in energy costs during unusually hot or cold years, and maintains a stable bottom line that allows utilities to continue reliable service.

Eliminating Fixed Monthly Charges:  If my monthly electrical bill is $80, but $20 comes via a fixed monthly charge, my efficiency efforts can only affect the remaining $60 on my bill.  The fixed charge penalizes consumers who conserve electricity by effectively charging them more per KWH consumed.  It also puts a bigger burden on low income consumers.  Since the data tells us energy efficiency is the surest route to minimizing monthly utility bills and long term prices, regulators should require utilities to minimize fixed monthly charges and tie all charges to energy use instead.  Better yet, eliminate fixed monthly charges altogether.

The good news is that utilities such as PNM and El Paso Electric are more amenable to implementing inclining rates and decoupling than they have been in the past.  The bad news is that they threaten to undo the benefits of these strategies by pushing for higher fixed monthly charges.
The Public Regulation Commission can help contain utility price increases, improve our environment, and put money in your pocket by requiring implementation of all three pricing strategies.  Adopting phased in implementation of these strategies in annual increments would give utilities and consumers time to adapt while giving regulators an opportunity to adjust to any implementation surprises.   It is the best favor the commission can do for New Mexicans and our economy.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37, and chair of the interim Science and Technology Committee.

Denise Lang & Ken Nicholson & Peace and Justice of La Luz invite you to visit our Otero County fair booth…

Wednesday August 11 from 5 pm to 9 pm, adiposity
Thursday August 12 from 5 pm to 10 pm, Friday August 13 from 11 am to 10 pm Saturday August 14 from 11 am to 10 pm

…where we continue our discussion about the consequences of the ‘War on Drugs.’

Meet our guest, Larry Talley, of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition!

Larry S. Talley served in the United States Navy from 1987-2007 as an intelligence specialist and was stationed at Naval Special Warfare Unit Eight in the Republic of Panama from 1991-1996. While stationed in Panama, Larry deployed frequently to various locations in Central and South America in support of counterdrug operations, where he formulated and implemented eradication strategy in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Agency and with many countries in the region.

About LEAP: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP http://www.leap.cc/cms/index.php) is made up of current and former members of law enforcement who believe the existing drug policies have failed in their intended goals of addressing the problems of crime, drug abuse, addiction, juvenile drug use, stopping the flow of illegal drugs into this country and the internal sale and use of illegal drugs. By fighting a war on drugs the government has increased the problems of society and made them far worse.

We’ll have materials from LEAP and from the clergy of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative  Questions? Comments? Call Denise or Ken at 575-430-5704 or

http://pajoll.org

pajoll@zianet.com

We welcome discussion with people who wish to dialogue with reason and compassion about our “War on Drugs”.

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