FIRST ON FOX: A Democratic congressional candidate from New Mexico is seeking to walk back recently revealed comments he made in the past indicating he supported ending oil and gas extraction “immediately.”
Gabe Vasquez, a former city councilman in Las Cruces, New Mexico, said in 2018 that he agreed with environmentalists who sought to get rid of oil and gas extraction “immediately” in favor of renewable energy.
As the November midterm elections approach, Vasquez recently called the oil and gas industry “incredibly important to this district” not just for the extractive companies themselves, but for the small businesses that support the fossil fuel industry.
Vasquez, who is running against incumbent Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell in the 2nd Congressional District, which covers most of the southern half of New Mexico, said on his “Nuestra Tierra Conservation Podcast” several years ago that he agreed with environmental groups , which says, “Shut it all down. Let’s just get rid of it right now.”
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But he also criticized some in the environmental movement who ignored communities’ dependence on oil and gas industries for their survival.
“In the very statement referenced, I make it abundantly clear that my top priority is protecting the livelihoods of New Mexicans and that I will not support any transition to sustainable energy that leaves working people dependent on oil and the gas industry,” Vasquez said. Fox News Digital Wednesday in a statement.
“We can continue to produce oil and gas responsibly, protect the health of our workers and our environment, and add even more jobs to the Southeast by expanding our renewable energy production.”
The podcast is no longer available on iTunes, but audio of the episode shared with Fox News matches an episode archived on Backtracks.fm, a podcast analytics website. In it, Vasquez does not appear to indicate that oil and gas must continue to be produced responsibly, but he does indicate that fossil fuel extraction should end in a way that supports local economies in transition.
“A lot of people in the environmental community will say, ‘Shut it all down. Let’s just get rid of it right away, let’s put in the infrastructure to get clean energy.’ And I agree with that. Because as a planet, we have to move in that direction,” Vasquez said in an episode of the podcast that aired March 27, 2018.
Vasquez went on to say that a shift away from fossil fuels would require heavy infrastructure building in renewable energy sources to ensure communities dependent on current extractive industries would have opportunities for employment.
“We also have to figure out a way to make sure that our people in these small towns and in these economies have the opportunity for job retraining, have the opportunity to be the ones installing those wind turbines or making those solar panels. And that’s , I think some of that is lost on some of the larger environmental community,” Vasquez said.
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Later in the podcast, Vasquez agreed with his guest, New Mexico state representative Angelica Rubio, and other environmental groups, saying, “We’ve got to end it all,” referring to fossil fuel-based energy.
He also lamented how entrenched oil and gas production was in the state’s economy.
“I think that’s where I get really frustrated with our legislature and with the state of the world in terms of our politics here in New Mexico because oil and gas is such a big part of our way of thinking. And our way that The idea is that we’ve also become very short-sighted in terms of our vision and how we think about things and move forward in terms of economic development,” Vasquez said.
The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association says the industry supported 134,000 jobs in the state by 2021.
Vasquez said in August that if elected, he would be a voice for oil and gas workers in New Mexico rather than supporting corporate extractive industries.
“My approach is that we cannot line the pockets of corporations and CEOs at the expense of community health,” he said, according to the Carlsbad Current-Argus. “In Congress, I want to hold the oil and gas companies accountable for not making some of the investments that I think they should be making in reducing methane emissions.”
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Herrell, Vasquez’s opponent in the race, said the economy is not ready to give up all fossil fuels, given all the industries it supports.
“We all take for granted the fossil fuel industry, the products that come out of that space,” Herrell said. “Let’s get our energy from where it’s cleaner and better for the environment. We’re not ready to go all green.”