Joselinne Cobos explained that her 37-year-old father was physically worn out and old for his age after working 17 years in the oil fields.
The work is hard, with long hours and little job security – not the blessing oil executives and their political allies claim it is when they tout the jobs created by the industry, Cobos said, 18-year-old Hobbs resident speaking at the State Capitol on Tuesday during Mexico’s New Climate Summit.
“It’s good for them, but not for us,” said Cobos. “Not for our workers, not for our families, not for our people. My community must have another industry, another option.”
Cobos participated in a panel on how to ensure people of color and disadvantaged communities can participate – and thrive – in the transition from fossil fuels to green energy, a theme echoed throughout the two days of the climate summit.
She was among those pushing back against the industry’s claim that a switch to renewables, such as solar, wind and geothermal power, will eliminate good jobs and force workers into menial, lower-paying jobs. in the booming green industry.
Political leaders such as State House President Brian Egolf, who helped organize the conference, said a clean source of energy would emerge from efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a source that will not only prevent oilfield workers from sliding into poverty when fossil fuel jobs disappear. but will pay them better.
Cobos said more young people like her want more options, more training and a better future than their parents who work hard in the oil and gas industry.
They also want more stability, she said. During a market downturn, his family moved from southern New Mexico to Colorado, then that area went bankrupt and they moved to Texas. They left that state after the workers were laid off and returned to New Mexico, she said.
“The oil industry is in a constant cycle from top to bottom,” Cobos said. “One minute is great. The next minute is to lay off your employees to avoid lost profits.”
Gladys Saucedo, another panel member, said a cost-saving measure in the oil and gas industry is to employ undocumented workers who have to accept lower wages and work under harsh conditions, often with little time off. .
“Those most exposed to change are the owners of these businesses,” Saucedo said, speaking through an interpreter. “They know how our community works in extreme temperatures. My husband, for example, has worked outside in temperatures of 105 degrees.”
Local elected officials say all is well and nothing needs to change as they represent the interests of owners and not workers, Saucedo said.
“We are disposable and replaceable because we are Latinos, we are working poor – immigrants – and because there are few economic and professional alternatives in our cities,” she said.
Saucedo made a point frequently raised at the summit: Workers in the fossil fuel industry must receive financial assistance while they are trained for new jobs. It’s just compensation for those who have worked to support an industry providing $ 1.4 billion in excess funds to the state to invest in green infrastructure, she said: “It’s climate justice . “
A study from the University of New Mexico was presented, showing that the main barriers to retraining oil workers for new jobs include English-only classes, long commutes to classes in rural areas, and conflicts with childcare and the current work schedule.
Illinois lawmakers recently passed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, which, among other things, trains people for jobs in renewable energy, such as installing solar systems.
A program aimed at minorities pays participants while they train and gives them allowances for child care, transportation, work clothes and books, said Dawn Dannenbring, lead organizer of the Illinois People’s Action.
In a different session, several tribal leaders discussed the need for the pueblos to move towards a clean energy future – and move away from what they described as a dirty energy past, which included mining. uranium.
“We are striving to be a renewable energy leader in this country while reducing our carbon footprint,” said Jonathan Nez, President of the Navajo Nation.
Wilfred Herrera Jr., Chairman of the Board of Governors of All Pueblo, said the key to reducing the effects of climate change is to include all indigenous peoples in the transition and to work with leaders at all levels to create the unity for the common goal.
The move towards renewable energy will benefit greatly from the involvement of the pueblos, Herrera said.
“Indigenous peoples, in their beliefs and as custodians of Mother Earth, are the foremost leaders in raising awareness and combating climate change,” he said. “We have had knowledge of ecosystems and the environment since time immemorial.”
Reverend Tony Pierce, chairman of the Illinois People’s Action board of directors, said more than half of New Mexico’s residents are minorities and have been left out in the past.
Fair climate action is something many well-meaning climate activists don’t understand or appreciate because they’re white and haven’t experienced minority struggles, Pierce said.
This is why it is important that fairness is built into any legislation aimed at shifting the state to a greener economy, he added.
The green revolution should not follow the same path as the digital revolution, launched by Bill Gates and Steve Jobs four decades ago, which has overtaken minority and rural communities, Pierce said. “These communities today suffer from a lack of Wi-Fi and digital services.”