By Jennifer Haley and A. T. “Trem” Smith
Originally published in the Bakersfield Californian May 2, 2021.
When it comes to fighting climate change, California has taken a leadership role – spearheading one of the most ambitious climate change agendas in the world. We all want cleaner air and support the state’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2045; the challenge is how to achieve our goal in a way that leaves no Californians behind and ensures our path forward is rooted in science, not ideology.
Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent declaration to halt issuance of fracking permits by 2024 and to analyze pathways to “phase out in-state oil extraction” by 2045, does not live up to this standard and risks driving an even deeper wedge between constituencies his Administration needs to be bringing together.
Two State-commissioned studies cited in the Governor’s announcement highlight the problematic nature of an approach founded on elimination of oil production by 2045. While the studies identify California transportation sector emission reduction strategies, including fuel supply and demand reductions, they explicitly conclude that under every scenario, Californians will still demand transportation fuels that release greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions after 2045. Achieving carbon neutrality in reality will require a mixture of emission reduction strategies across a wide variety of sectors.
An edict “banning” in-state oil production does not bring us closer to carbon neutrality; it merely shifts supplying California’s anticipated demand away from local producers (and jobs) to primarily foreign OPEC operations without the state’s rigorous environmental and safety standards, potentially raising overall GHG emissions. California will lose the economic value to our communities from more than 300,000 jobs associated with oil production and sacrifice more than $40 billion in tax revenues that support local schools, libraries, parks, infrastructure, police and fire protection services. Ironically, we will also lose more than $1 Billion of GHG reduction program funding now provided by the oil industry.
The State’s transportation emissions study recognizes: “Reducing emissions is not a goal that can be pursued independently of the many other priorities for the state and its residents;” and concludes “The policy approach taken by the state should acknowledge uncertainty and support flexibility should technologies develop more—or less— rapidly than expected.”
California must bring together a broad coalition of champions and innovators across sectors, allow science and data to drive policy, and support the cultivation and deployment of a wide-ranging portfolio of technology and approaches. Our State’s leaders cannot afford to prematurely pick favorites to the detriment of innovation. The decisions made will affect people’s lives, especially those struggling to make ends meet. Bringing together diverse viewpoints and interests will ensure we are developing workable steps to achieve our goals. In making those decisions we need to be honest about the inevitable trade-offs and balance the unintended consequences, which could include imposition of increased costs on those least able to pay.
Addressing climate change in a way that ensures all Californians can still make a good life for themselves and their families is a non-negotiable priority. Californians of all educational backgrounds deserve access to jobs that pay a good wage, so they can afford groceries, housing, and reliable electricity. People need to be able to affordably get from point A to point B and increased transportation costs disproportionately affect low income households. We need policies that generate economic growth and corresponding tax revenue to support critical public services.
Kern County’s unique strength as both the leading oil producer and renewable energy producer in the state make our region uniquely suited to the task before us. An ideal platform for this work is the ongoing public-private collaborative effort to develop a roadmap for economic growth and investment in Kern County known as “A Better Bakersfield and Boundless Kern Regional Action for Economic Prosperity” (or B3K). As co-chairs of the B3K Energy Workgroup, we are establishing a collaborative table for diverse stakeholders to develop and execute a roadmap to “Net Zero” that also prioritizes economic prosperity, quality job creation, equity, and affordable reliable energy for all.
The B3K Energy Workgroup will cultivate a frank and open dialogue about where we are, where we need to be and how we get there together – as a region and as a state. Kern Oil & Refining Co. and Berry Corporation are steadfastly committed to ensuring we continue to provide great jobs for the women and men who power our organizations, even as we transform our companies and products to be part of the clean energy transition. We can rise to this challenge, but only if we do so together, in good faith and always with a focus on all the people of California.
Jennifer Haley is President and CEO of Kern Oil & Refining Co. and A.T. “Trem” Smith is CEO & Chairman of the Board of Berry Corporation (Nasdaq: BRY). They are Co-Chairs of the Better Bakersfield & Boundless Kern (B3K) Energy Workgroup.