BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) –Pumping gas is not anybody’s favorite activity, but it’s so much a part of our lives most of us do it on autopilot. But the day is coming, gradually but inevitably, when it may be a rare chore.
That’s because California state government’s efforts to move away from fossil fuels has a new powerful ally — the federal government. President Joe Biden had scarcely warmed his Oval Office chair before he took steps to address the climate crisis and, as part of that effort, restrict the oil industry.
He announced America’s return to the international Paris agreement to fight climate change, evoked a vital permit for the Keystone oil pipeline project from Canada, suspended oil and gas permitting on federal lands and waters, and placed a moratorium on oil and gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which the Trump administration had recently opened to development.
This comes hot on the heels of state Senate Bill 100, signed into law in September 2018, which requires that all retail electricity be carbon-free by 2045 and that 60 percent of California’s electricity portfolio comes from renewable energy sources by 2030.
Then, last September, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order requiring sales of all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2035. Those state and federal actions, taken together, put a key part of the Kern economy in jeopardy. They also portend major lifestyle changes for all of California. What comes next? For one, brace for a rollout of electric vehicles across the state.
Bill Magavern, policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air, based in Sacramento, said Biden’s election changes everything.
“Biden has committed to electric vehicles and for the State of California we’ll have a partner in the federal government when it comes to electrifying transportation,” he said. “For the last four years we’ve had resistance to our clean air efforts in California coming from the federal government and now we’re going to have support from the federal government.”
But while Sacramento moves ahead with ambitious plans like public EV charging stations, look for the oil industry to make its case.
Kevin Slagle of the Western States Petroleum Association, also based in Sacramento, said the state’s energy plan must have room for oil.
“What we really look at in all this is, we get to the future with an all-of-the-above strategy — which includes our products, which includes solar, which includes electric vehicles,” he said. “But picking a winner or loser or banning this or mandating that is not how we progress, not how we get there.”
One thing might slow the pace of change on the energy and transportation fronts: economic reality. President Barack Obama set out to achieve many of the same goals that his former vice president, Joe Biden, champions now, but the economic reality of the 2007 recession they inherited in 2009 forced much of it to the back burner.
Obama also came to appreciate the geopolitical benefits of being a major oil producer and wiped out a 40-year old ban on exporting U.S. Crude oil.
Biden also inherits a recession — the COVID-19 recession. The oil industry holds its breath as this one plays out.
At best, the pandemic seems likely to only delay an inevitable move away from fossil fuel.
Is Kern County prepared? Check back in four years.