Instant historians already see 2020 as a year in which the tectonic plates of the socio-politico-economic world shifted. The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on global society and its daily life, politics and economics has been so dramatic, so universal, that not just scholars now see history divided into pre- and post-COVID-19 eras.
One early hallmark of the new era is the sudden, incomplete but unmistakable, move of the global energy industry away from fossil fuels. Led by Shell, BP and Total in the energy provider sector and GM and Volvo in the energy-dependent product provider sector the mandate to put the brakes on climate change has taken hold. The world is ready to reduce radically its use of oil, gas and coal in favor of wind, solar and hydrogen power, and it has let the energy magnates know in two classic free market ways — increasing pressure from investors and shareholders to “go green” and a growing market for green products and green concepts among consumers.
Brave new world, let’s go for it! Especially if we have to keep our old overheating world from climate disaster. The new post-COVID, climate-conscious world is going to be different in many ways from what we knew before March 2020, and for many people, some of its imposed adjustments are going to be hurtful.
In the energy industry, forsaking fossil fuels for renewable wind and sun and cheap and plentiful hydrogen will mean new technologies, new skills, jobs and markets, changes that will drive new skills, jobs and markets in dozens of other industries downstream from the power providers. This turbulence isn’t abstract here in the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico has long been a state whose relationship to the energy industry has been intense. The dead uranium branch of the energy-extraction business killed many, mostly Native American miners and badly damaged many square miles of mostly Native American land. The impending death of the coal industry will cost New Mexico jobs and revenue, again, disproportionately among Native Americans. Now with oil and gas under economic pressure, the state’s single most significant source of tax revenues is under threat, even though New Mexico is very well positioned for solar and wind power development. Will energy-change be our friend or will it pick our pocket? Or will it even happen?
Professor Janie Chermak, Department of Economics, is a natural resources and environmental economics expert with an emphasis on energy, including oil and gas, water and invasive species. Chernak has been in the Economics Department since 1995 when she was hired as an associate professor. She is currently the chair of the Economics Department, a position she’s held since 2012. Other research Interests include interdisciplinary modeling and applied microeconomics. Chermak teaches courses in natural resource economics, microeconomics, energy economics and dynamic optimization.