What do we know about the Governor’s new Energy Secretary?

What do we know about the Governor’s new Energy Secretary?

This week, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed Melanie Kenderdine as Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary. At first pass, Kenderdine looks like an outstanding choice for the position given her years of experience in the energy sector, not just federally but really on a global scale. She appears to be a pragmatist, someone who looks at things the way they are and makes decisions based on those realities, not objectively a bad trait for a government official. She’s served at the Department of Energy under both the Clinton and Obama administrations, and has experience working on energy issues internationally with governments, corporations, and NGOs. 

However, much of that experience has been focused on technologies that frankly, we in New Mexico, have loudly pushed back on for years and many call false solutions. While the Governor campaigned for her reelection on the successes of her first term like the Energy Transition Act and methane regulation, the last couple of years have been an uphill battle to push back on her administration’s attempts at nonsensical energy ideas that would set the state backward rather than moving us forward. With that in mind, here are some things we should watch out for from Sec. Kenderdine in her new role. 

As stated above, in many interviews and statement papers Kenderdine is something of a pragmatist about energy issues. You can really get a sense of this perspective from this video of Kenderdine talking about natural gas and saying that “natural gas plays a huge role in our emissions reductions so far.” That video was produced by a group called Gas Naturally, an European Union-based foundation dedicated to extolling the “virtues” of natural gas (methane), Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Hydrogen.

Uh-oh, who else do we know that is currently pushing for Hydrogen and CCS as part of a “net zero” approach to energy production in New Mexico… 

So the use of Hydrogen in NM is the first issue we must be on the lookout for, and probably the one that will come up first and foremost as we enter into the last 60-day session of this administration’s tenure in 2025. 

There’s additional evidence that Kenderdine is pro-hydrogen and CCS, which to reiterate from years of work in New Mexico, we simply do not support as part of our state’s Just Transition away from reliance on fossil fuels. 

Kenderdine is a listed director of a group called Our Energy Policy Foundation, which received funding from the American Petroleum Institute, BP, as well as a handful large regulated monopolies like Con Edison. Oh and speaking of the American Petroleum Institute, here’s Kenderdine having a friendly little interview with API president and CEO Mike Sommers from a couple of years ago.

Besides the on-the-face problems of being in-league with Big Oil, Our Energy Foundation was founded by philanthropist Josef Hollander. Hollander is also the founder of a group called Fuel Freedom Foundation. FFF’s main mission is to push for less dependence on FOREIGN oil. While this isn’t an inherently bad mission, their focus on pragmatic solutions includes continuing to rely on fossil fuels, just American made ones. To be fair, they “include” electrification as part of their overall solution package, but rather than focusing on that as a true, clean and renewable source of energy that could radically shift our reliance on ALL fossil fuels, they also promote things like methanol and ethanol as transportation fuels. Without going fully into the weeds about this, we know that methanol is produced as a byproduct of natural gas but can and is increasingly created as a byproduct of CCS and, you guessed it, hydrogen production. 

This isn’t an indictment of Sec. Kenderdine per se, nor of the Governor for appointing her. She’s clearly qualified to run the Department and is frankly a huge asset to the state for her years of work in the field and knowledge and international experience and connections. Our concern here is that as someone who has clearly pushed for technologies that still rely on the Oil and Gas industry rather than fully embracing the transition away from them, we must all be ready to push back if and when the administration once again starts pushing for false solutions that will only further our reliance on fossil fuels and the out-of-state corporations who’ve preyed on our resources for over a century. 

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