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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Heat Is On: Climate Change Talks Bring Home Impact On PNM; The Coal In The Company's Stocking, Plus: Hectoring Hector; New AG Draws Early Editorial Fire, And: Pizza Dough Gets The Pit 

The heat is on at PNM. As the concern over climate change generates startling news the electric company is going to feel even more heat over its use of Four Corners coal to generate electricity. Far away at a UN conference in Lima, Peru comes the news that is going to be felt here.

Even with a deal to stop the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists warn, the world will become increasingly unpleasant. Without a deal, they say, the world could eventually become uninhabitable for humans. While scientists and climate-policy experts welcome the new momentum ahead of the Lima talks, they warn that it now may be impossible to prevent the temperature of the planet’s atmosphere from rising by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. According to a large body of scientific research, that is the tipping point at which the world will be locked into a near-term future of drought, food and water shortages, melting ice sheets, shrinking glaciers, rising sea levels and widespread flooding — events that could harm the world’s population and economy.

That's downright scary and can't help but galvanize political action on the local level. PNM recently entered an agreement to scale back its use of coal--a chief culprit in greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet. But now the utility is talking about buying the coal mine that services the generating plant. That raises questions about PNM's commitment to getting out of coal entirely. . .

The company reported record earnings for its most recent quarter. Its stock price has zoomed and the company has raised the dividend payout in each of the past two years. PNM's rates are regulated by the state Public Regulation Commission. There is pressure on the PRC to have a say in any PNM decision to buy that coal mine. . .

The battle lines for the years head are being drawn even more clearly--getting PNM entirely out of the coal biz and deciding how much of the cost of doing that is borne by ratepayers. . .

Even though polls show climate change not high on the list of concerns of US voters and opinion divided about its impact, the smoke spewing from the Four Corners is not only a climate threat but a PNM PR nightmare. The undeniable news of climate change and the accompanying calls for change are going to grow only louder and the opinion polls will gradually reflect that.

PNM has proven quite nimble in negotiating the latest agreement to reduce Four Corners coal haze. The question is whether the company can stay ahead of those scary headlines.

HECTORING HECTOR

The assumption of supporters of Attorney General-elect Hector Balderas that he is already eyeing a run at the 2018 Dem Guv nomination may be causing him problems. The conservative press is hot on his tail even before he is sworn in January 1. Here's the hammering in this recent editorial:

As he takes his new office in January, he should remember that campaign season is over and actions do speak louder than words – especially when it comes not only to rooting out public corruption, but also actually to doing something about it.

Of course, if new AG Balderas has the gumption to investigate corruption alleged in the Martinez administration, you can expect a sudden change in the editorial tone. It will quickly shift from "Get after that corruption!" to: "How dare you!"

WHAT NOW?

The BBC takes a half hour radio look at the fatal explosion of the Virgin Galactic space plane at the end of October. It was a major setback for Sir Richard Branson's company as well as the NM Spaceport. Where do we go from here?

PIZZA DOUGH

So local pizza start up WisePies is coming with the dough to have the famous UNM basketball "Pit" renamed WisePies Arena. The company only opened its first location earlier this year but apparently sees the wisdom of inking a $500,000 a year ten year deal with UNM. You could view that as a bargain. UNM was looking to get $500,000 for 20 years for the naming rights.

Here's an idea: How about the university selling more of the naming rights to the Dion's pizza chain to recoup the $500,000 a year left on the table? Then we can call it "The Pizza Pit."

And will anyone really call the Pit "WisePies Arena?" Probably only those who insist on calling Albuquerque "Burque."

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