Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez
In the decade I’ve spent as a Kern County supervisor, I’ve never felt as proud of this community and as hopeful about our future as I did last week when my fellow supervisor and I joined with our top county leaders to announce a new effort that will be backed by the U.S. Department of Energy and supported by the expertise of the nation’s top scientists to establish a carbon management Center of Excellence here in Kern County.
It’s hard to overstate the significance of this news. Of the 22 projects the Department of Energy announced that it would be providing technical assistance for, Kern County’s is the only one focused on carbon capture and sequestration. We are poised to lead the nation once again on energy, this time on clean energy and carbon management, the technologies we must prove and deploy to solve the greatest challenges of our lifetime and assure a stable future for our children and grandchildren.
Kern County is uniquely situated to prove and demonstrate carbon capture technology. This is a process to divert carbon emissions from major sources like power plants or cement factories from entering the atmosphere, and instead funnel them underground to be permanently stored in subterranean geological formations. According to climate experts, carbon capture and sequestration technology is critical to solving our climate crisis because we simply won’t have enough renewable, carbon-free sources of energy to supplant all our current sources and we can no longer delay in taking action.
As it turns out, the same geological reservoirs that have pumped out oil and gas for more than a century and made Kern a leader in oil and gas production are perfectly suited to safely store carbon dioxide underground in perpetuity. In fact, oil companies years ago began injecting carbon dioxide underground to help move stubborn oil deposits up to the surface in older oilfields.
We have been encouraged to see the industry on its own embrace the pursuit of carbon capture technology and we have already embarked on permitting the first such project in the nation which was submitted to us by California Resources Corporation. We are fortunate to count these forward-thinking and adaptive companies as our partners in this venture.
But what really makes this effort is truly remarkable is the fact that alongside the oil industry, we also have the Dolores Huerta Foundation supporting us, as well as unions within the Building Trades Council, Cal State Bakersfield and Bakersfield College and even our leaders in Sacramento. And as my colleague Supervisor Zack Scrivner pointed out, this project is one example where you have agreement between the Newsom administration and Kern County.
The work announced this week will provide the technical expertise to help us scope out and plan everything that comes next. It’s critically important we get it right now and that we all commit to working together as good-faith players. This process will set the stage for much more to come, in the way of good-paying jobs, investment from outside companies, investment in and growth opportunities for our local energy companies and most importantly a promising path forward for Kern County.
As Kern County’s brilliant planning director Lorelei Oviatt said: “This is an idea whose time has come. If Kern County is being asked to invent a future, then that’s what we will do.”
So it’s time to do what we do best: go out there and lead the way.
Leticia Perez is Kern County’s fifth district supervisor.