By Eliza Hillenkamp (published in Sunday, 7/21/2019 Santa Fe New Mexican)
[New Energy Economy is happy to share this passionate call to action by Eliza Hillenkamp who interned with us this past Spring. Brilliant young minds like Eliza's give reason to hope and remind us to work harder for a more secure future on planet Earth.]
As a recent high school graduate, I constantly experience hundreds of thoughts that stress me out, but above all of my day-to-day social and academic worries looms the dark shadow of climate change.
The first time I heard the words “global warming,” it sounded so ominous that I got chills. Even though I had no idea what the words actually meant, the phrase seemed indicative of something apocalyptic.
About 10 years later, I still have the same reaction every time I hear those words, paired with confusion and frustration. Logically, this is a problem we should have solved years ago. It should have been easy to come together to save our children and our planet. People tell me it doesn’t work like that. They say we could never unite humanity under one cause, especially one that is so hard to see in their everyday lives. However idealistic I may sound, I think they’re wrong.
About one-third of carbon emissions come from fossil fuel electricity generation. We must stop choking our planet, and we must do it the right way. We cannot rely on nuclear energy because it is dangerous and will only cause future crises. Right now, Public Service Company of New Mexico is planning to purchase expiring leases of Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (“Petition challenges PNM’s nuclear plans,” April 23). PNM has been leasing energy to sell to New Mexicans from the Arizona plant for the past 35 years, but the leases are about to expire and PNM must either purchase or forfeit its shares by 2023. If PNM is prevented from purchasing its shares of Palo Verde, ratepayer money could instead go toward building more renewable energy in New Mexico.
On Earth Day, New Energy Economy and 25 other organizations filed a joint petition at the Public Regulation Commission calling for an investigation into whether PNM’s plans to purchase the Palo Verde leases are sensible. The petition brings up several issues that would arise if PNM were allowed to buy the shares — purchasing and decommissioning costs falling onto the shoulders of ratepayers, the lack of local jobs created by the plant, the disproportionate effect of higher rates on low-income families — but what really infuriates me is the fact that PNM is compromising citizens’ health and futures to improve its own profit.
Nuclear energy is considered a “clean” energy source because it emits no carbon. However, we are ignoring the fact that we are generating huge amounts of radioactive waste — 2,300 metric tons per year globally — that takes as much as 10,000 years to neutralize, and no one has any idea what to do with it. Under no normal circumstances could something that produces 5 million pounds of carcinogens each year be considered “clean.” And yet, PNM plans to buy this nuclear to serve our electricity needs. My generation will have to deal with the consequences of nuclear waste. So I ask the adults reading this: Help your children fight the greed that is destroying our planet — oppose nuclear energy.
If we want to reverse the effects of climate change, we need to throw all our resources — money, problem-solving capabilities and idealistic youth — into energy sources that will support humanity for hundreds of years. We need to switch to renewable resources now, and luckily we have an abundance of sun and wind in New Mexico. We can solve this problem, but only if we all come together and work toward the same goal of less-costly renewable energy.
Eliza Hillenkamp recently graduated from Santa Fe Prep, interned with New Energy Economy in the Spring of 2019, and is currently taking a gap year before attending Amherst College.