Monday, August 26, 2013

New Mexico: Climate Change, Infrastructure & Water

Before We Begin,
 A Quick Note On Climate Change

MeanMesa has posted a few apocalyptic essays before, notably There's Infrastructure, and Then There's Infrastructure (Doomsday Without the Lipstick), each one hopefully addressing tangible possibilities of infrastructure projects which  could be undertaken immediately, and which might mitigate some of the more catastrophic -- and lethally unpleasant -- impacts of global climate change.  [For the more ambitious MeanMesa visitor, a longer and more in depth post can be seen at Managing Global Warming Solutions.]

It has always been the "high ambition" of MeanMesa with respect to this topic to present solutions of the "engineering type" rather than plunge headlong into the details of planetary chemistry and meteorological physics or simply drone on endlessly about the hopelessness of it all. 

Technology's forward movement toward a solution is impressive, but painfully slow, encountering not only the anticipated difficulties of any new ideas, but also  further obstacles emerging from the social culture of money, power, politics and, in an unsettling way, meteorological illiteracy.  Precisely the same voters who will ultimately face the responsibility of financing the mitigation of the approaching threat are inundated in purposefully misleading propaganda designed to protect the wealth of a few from the massive expenditure inevitably required.

In simpler terms the coal mine owners, the petroleum nobility and a small collection of others with their personal wealth dependent on continuing the present self-destructive course intend to bring the rest of us down with them.  More immediately, it is precisely the accumulated wealth of this "new nobility" class which will be required to finance the planet's rehabilitation.

This last proposition is one largely unspoken in our class-war sensitive social culture, but, make no mistake, the currently grotesque results of wealth redistribution and concentration was created largely by the same social and economic factors which have created the present climate crisis.  Quite without regard to philosophical or ideological ideas of "right and wrong" or "legitimate and not legitimate," the political reality will ultimately dictate the allocation of this "privately held wealth" to planetary survival.

In a certain sense, while we may think of climate change as a matter of fossil; fuels, carbon dioxide and the like, it can also be seen as nothing other than the inevitable product of the long, rapacious avarice of this wealth obsessed class which has led us to this planetary precipice.

Infrastructure in New Mexico

The common story of infrastructure has, unfortunately, settled on a convenient list of project types -- schools, bridges, roads, hospitals and so on.  However, with closer scrutiny we rather quickly notice an interesting omission from that "standard list."

In fact, if we imagined ourselves in an alternate universe -- perhaps MeanMesa's "future history" department, we might encounter the following in a high school geography text book:

The US State of New Mexico, being in a region where water availability was a constant priority, very wisely invested its own state tax revenues in a series of water management infrastructure projects.  The State constructed not only water retention reservoirs to collect surficial run off during monsoon seasons, but also a  series of smaller flood control and distributed water retention projects across all the regions in the state which could route essentially all the year round precipitation into a number of lakes and reservoirs for local use.

As the climate change induced drought settled over the Western US during the first half of the 21st Century, New Mexico's water management infrastructure continued to provide communities and agricultural water needs while largely protecting areas of the state which had previously suffered from repeated flooding, also serving to protect New Mexicans from some of the worst consequences of the climate induced water shortages in the Western state region while promoting a continuous rate of common sense, sustainable economic development and growth.

Perhaps more than any of New Mexico's other resource development investments five decades ago, the extensive water management projects were the foundation for the state's exceptional prosperity in this current period of drought created economic collapse in the other states in the region.

Of course all this would cost money, but right there we immediately see an economically positive side -- in fact, we see economically positive sides.  Lots of them.  Right here we can trot out an old MeanMesa logo which has appeared on the blog in plenty of previous posts.

The very idea of a "demand economy" in New Mexico is literally "knocking down the door!"

In the first half of this year New Mexico's Republican Governor, Susana Martinez, "rolled out" $10 Mn in state funds for "job training."  She "rolled out" more than that for "economic development."  Of course no one walking the streets of Albuquerque or sitting in the State Capital have seen any of those jobs.

The tale of the "economic development" is even more outrageous.  Naturally, the "economic development" expenditures were legislative promises which were also well lubricated with the more alluring, gaseous promised of the creation of even more imaginary jobs.  When more sensible State legislators asked the Governor's office for an account of the expenditures, that is,  a look at the jobs created and examples of where the NM  "economy" which was developed, their request was refused.

At first the Governor insisted that her staff would analyze the progress and then "report" all the good news to the State Representatives, but later it became "necessary" for the job to be transferred to an expert consulting firm in Arizona with the "know-how" to make sure that everything was "examined correctly."

So much for jobs in New Mexico.  New Mexicans don't even get a few hours of paid work to establish why the "jobs program" didn't create any jobs.  If you are still not certain that you have an accurate "grip" on the total cess pool this has become, just imagine that you are in the Black Hole of Calcutta and start digging from there.

We're headed for the "climate change, infrastructure and water" in this post's title, but we have one more short stop to make first.

One More Time, ALEC New Mexico

Let's face a few facts.

1. Tax-wise, billionaires and corporations like it just the way it is.  They've spent millions of dollars in bribes -- ooops, campaign contributions -- for purchasing Congressmen and for purchasing tax laws, to get the taxes on their profits down to essentially zero where they are now.

2. Doing anything about the rapidly approaching impact of climate change will cost money -- tax money.  Steadily since Reagan's introduction of "trickle-down, voodoo economics," but especially in the economic wreckage of the Bush W. autocracy, the billionaires and the corporations have all the money.

3. Repeat number 2, above, but replace climate change with unemployment and national prosperity.  The economy of the United States today is crippled.  The oligarchs have emptied the shelves, the bank account and the cash register.  The United States will not be able to meet the challenges of climate change with a "basket case" economy.

4. ALEC -- both in states all across the country, but also in New Mexico -- offers "one stop shopping" for any billionaire or corporation with an appetite to own a Republican state Senator or Congressman.  ALEC's very most, most, favorite things are state financed "economic development grants" followed in by close second with deregulation of any regulation that costs any ALEC billionaire even so much as a single dollar, and third, more and more endless tax cuts on corporate profit, in each case ushered into law through a comatose state legislature bathed in the whimsical justification of creating jobs.

Interestingly, none of this stuff ever produces the effect promised, and in most cases is not the written legislation which is reported to the respective constituents.  All across the country, Americans are now painfully familiar with the effect that is produced from processes similar to those we see in New Mexico.  The other almost incomprehensible fact is that the Congressional constituents in these ALEC-victim states never actually wanted any of these bills to pass, that is, constituents did not ask their lawmakers to author these bills.

These bills came straight down the chute from the national ALEC think tanks into the hands of eagerly complicit state Congressional "leaders."

Here in New Mexico our ex-Democrat Republican Governor continues to pretend that she is "unleashing" the "free market," and that unbridled prosperity is "just around the corner," but we never get to see that "corner" or even get a peek at the "prosperity" there.  We have out of state suppliers furnishing everything from job training, weird Christian high school text books, consultants for every task possible, professional experts on deregulation, crooked "assistants" helping invest the New Mexico "rainy day fund" and plenty of ALEC campaign cash to grease the wheels -- not only providing the mimeographed legislation authorizing all this plunder, but also providing the Round House votes to put it in place.

The point here is simple.

Any effort to direct state resources to water infrastructure will be ambushed immediately by ALEC sponsored Congressional "temper tantrums."  The crooks and oligarchs who own ALEC -- along with the crooks and oligarchs who own the Republican Party -- have not positioned themselves to "drink deeply" from infrastructure money.  Should a piece of this kind of legislation actually survive the inevitable ALEC counter attack in the State legislature, the Governess would immediately want to take the contract to Texas or Arizona where her campaign contributors are.

In New Mexico, in the United States and around the entire globe we face monumental work.  It will all cost money, and the people who currently have that money are apparently not inclined to spend any of it on this until the planet is in shambles and the people of Earth are wallowing in violent, desperate chaos.  ALEC is both the active legislative voice of these people and the channel through which they can employ their great wealth against our common survival.

All ideology will have long ago melted two decades from now.

Drought, Dams and DimWits

What, exactly, is MeanMesa proposing here?

Beginning with a consideration of the economic impact resulting from all these decades of inaction, we can start by estimating the present cost of facing today's challenges.  We have flood damage across the state from heavy monsoon rains, but we also have gigantic reservoirs such as the one at Elephant Butte practically empty.

Elephant Butte in better days [Se: NASA]
Elephant Butte Reservoir is supposed to look like this when NASA photographs it from Earth orbit.  Because there has been a drought for the last few years, this reservoir, although not bone dry, has become an over sized puddle stuck in a low spot.

Caused by the drought?  Certainly, but this reservoir was going dry on precisely the same day that the monsoon run off was careening out of the state last year, the year before that and the year before that and so on.

Elephant Butte today [Se: NASA]
This is a photo was what Elephant Butte looks like today.  The State geologists tell us that it will take a series of strong monsoon seasons every year for the next few years to fill the reservoir back to what is shown in the top photo.

Just remember that this takes such a long time because most of the monsoon moisture drains away to the Rio Grande River where it almost instantly becomes the property of Texas and becomes included in Texas water rights.

In fact, the State of Texas is currently suing New Mexico because the Texans claiming that Albuquerque's new water treatment project, the San Juan Chama plant, is diverting too much river water as the Rio Grands flows sedately through the county.  If you feel that a troubling part of the autonomy of the State of New Mexico seems to also be draining down the Rio Grande into the hands of the same "free marketeer" Texans who financed Governor Martinez's campaign, MeanMesa could not possibly agree with you more.

Monsoon flow in Albuquerque - KRQE
The amount of infrastructure development required to "move" the water we see in the photo [right] to a place where it can be retained and used is significant.  Yet, when we consider the photos of Elephant Butte and the rush of New Mexico surface run off to Texas -- the ultimate destination of the water in the photo at the right, how can we miss the opportunity?

If the surface water flow running through the Albuquerque arroyos during a single monsoon season were captured in a reservoir prior to the point where it reaches the Rio Grande, this city would soon have its own lake.

Now, having that lake would not be an immediate solution to the area water shortage, but it would hold possibilities which are quite attractive.  Urban surficial run off is typically highly polluted with contaminants literally washed off the ground by the rain.  These include anti-freeze, motor oil, sewage effluent, fertilizer and pesticides, just to name a few. 

However, there is probably no place with more access to tremendous solar heat power -- precisely the kind of power with zero emission, low maintenance and low operating expense which is perfect for a high volume solar distillation facility.  Using solar heat, we can clean that surface water at a very low cost.  Further, we can distill water from our new reservoir all year long, contributing the perfectly clean distillate directly into the city's drinking water.

It would be the cheapest water flowing through our drinking fountains and taps -- cheaper than the aquifer well water, cheaper than the San Juan Chama water.

An Over Reaction to a Temporary Problem?

Hardly.  Although ALEC has largely adopted the climate change denying business as a full time hobby for fun and profit, MeanMesa visitors have known better for years.  The science paints a far bleaker picture.

IPCC predicts our future (article here)

[You will be able to read the chart  more clearly if you click the image.]  The alternatives connected to facing this type of a future are clear enough.  New Mexico can either take steps now to guarantee available water in our future or, -- we can plan on leaving.

This post isn't simply proposing a reservoir for Albuquerque.  The entire State needs similar projects from border to border.  The New Mexico of the future can be a lattice of dams, retention reservoirs, solar distillation plants and aqueducts.  Our State's agricultural production can increase exponentially with enough low priced water. 

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

The engineering and construction of this type of vital infrastructure can be almost entirely sourced inside the State of New Mexico.  The $10 Mn "jobs training" expenditure the Governor is so proud of could make one hell of a down payment on the Albuquerque reservoir and plant construction, and -- importantly -- it would actually create jobs!  These would be jobs which didn't depend on the whimsy of distant markets or require expertise only available through the Governor's "out of state consultants."

Uh oh.

THIS would be the demand economy MeanMesa has been hammering about for so long.

ABQ Journal
The Albuquerque Journal photos [right] show scenes around Albuquerque during some heavy rains in this year's monsoon season.  We've already considered the infrastructure development possibilities with respect to retaining this run off water, but when it comes to job creation, we are also looking at a huge number of flood control projects, too.

If our State government committed itself to the design,  construction, modernization and expansion of flood control infrastructure across the State, there would be more construction jobs than there were construction workers. Of course, a little "macro-economic project scheduling" could easily solve the shortage, but -- WHAT A GREAT PROBLEM TO HAVE!!

The "icing on the cake" would be an economy increased not only by the pay checks New Mexicans would be getting from working on these projects, but also the "reserved buying power" made possible when New Mexicans were no longer facing the financial damage we see in the photos.

A demand economy runs on buying power.  New Mexico is no exception.

All the State money being plowed into "economic development" and "job training" could start this State-wide reconstruction program this year.  When the larger picture is considered, why would we be messing around with clusters of small minded, heavily looted "oatmeal" programs when such a great future is literally knocking at our door?

We haven't even thought about how a STATE BANK could finance this.

New Mexicans, don't create a future where you will have to explain to your grandchildren why, when confronted with this solvable future challenge, you did nothing.

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