Kern’s much-vaunted future as a carbon management capital may hinge on a local cooperative effort to compete with other parts of the country for a share of the $3.5 billion approved under the law. federal government on infrastructure investment and jobs last year.
A consortium of oil companies and other organizations is finalizing to prepare an offer of $800 million or more to help make the county one of four U.S. hubs that, by 2029, would extract the dioxide carbon from the atmosphere – “direct air capture”, or DAC – to start slowing global warming.
Many advantages exist locally, such as geology, labor, expertise, infrastructure and a declining oil industry – but not to the exclusion of vocal skeptics representing minority communities whose concerns will need to be addressed. as part of the application.
By rough estimates, thousands of well-paying jobs could be at stake, a significant part of what local leaders see as the county’s future energy workforce. Part of the federal government’s idea, explicitly, is to replace oilfield positions seen as diminishing under government climate policies.
Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the Bay Area, a Cal State Bakersfield and Kern Community College District partner and now a consortium member, see DAC — a form of carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS — as an opportunity to California to make great strides toward its goal of carbon neutrality by 2045. For the county, they say, it’s also a chance to create secure, quality jobs.
LLNL director Kimberly Budil said any project stemming from a federal grant could be just the beginning. Other companies will be attracted to Kern if the workforce is available locally, along with other local assets, she added.
“It will become self-reinforcing over time,” she said, adding to efforts to diversify the local economy.
But one challenge that will have to be overcome first, evident at a pair of energy conferences last week in Bakersfield, is opposition from local environmental justice advocates concerned primarily about the safety risks of potential leaks. of CO2. None other than Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers union, has called for CCS to be set aside in favor of a greater focus on clean energy generation.
CCS proponents saw hope, however, noting that Huerta expressed a significant misperception of California’s plan for the technology: She criticized the use of captured CO2 for oil production, which is now prohibited by state law despite industry efforts to permit it.
People involved in the consortium talk about doing more to reach out to local communities to educate them about the technology and the value of action. In a sense, developers have no choice.
According to documents released by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, applications for four hub grants to be awarded through 2026 will need to incorporate “environmental justice, community engagement, and community-based settlement.” consent, and equity and workforce development”.
The DOE also insists that its financial support leads to quality jobs with high labor standards and learning opportunities.
Those involved say around 30 different organizations are expected to engage as consortium supporters, if not active partners, in a collaboration that is expected to be announced soon.
Two local economic development initiatives aimed at supporting a successful transition to more clean energy jobs, the B3K Prosperity Collaboration and a related group led by KCCD, expressed support for the effort and optimism that it will lead to the creation of quality jobs.
A central figure in this effort is Long Beach-based California Resources Corp., a major oil producer in Kern that is likely the most advanced of several local companies pursuing CCS. CRC’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Carbon TerraVault, has already filed two permits for permanent CO2 injection at its Elk Hills property in West Kern.
President and CEO Mark A. “Mac” McFarland said local CCS supporters need to sit down and talk with environmental justice communities about what carbon management means and how it’s done. integrates into the community.
“I think it will be important to understand EJ’s concerns and work to alleviate them,” McFarland said, “but we’re working on a common issue, so it should be possible to find some common ground.”
According to LLNL’s Budil, the United States’ ability to produce clean, renewable energy is limited by infrastructure and environmental factors. This means that tackling climate change will require removing carbon from the environment – and “you have to put it somewhere”.
Security issues can be addressed, she said, by building in energy controls and security systems that will involve securing the transport of CO2 to processing and injection sites.
The groups involved in the consortium are currently silent on details such as the different partners involved. But there is no shortage of organizations expressing support for the effort.
CSUB, KCCD and B3K released statements applauding the effort as a potential job generator that deserves broad support, assuming the community can align.
Chevron Corp., for its part, is watching to see what role it could play in the effort as it evaluates a variety of CCS opportunities in the region, “some of which may include DOE funding and some that may not. “.
“We have discussed this bid with organizers and look forward to seeing its progress and researching other potential low-carbon solutions in the San Joaquin Valley and California,” Chevron said in a statement.