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Featured, Energy Matters Feb 11, 2021

Aera’s Will Spear: We can work together for success in tomorrow’s net-zero carbon economy

Stopping California’s oil and gas production today would do nothing to help climate change, says Aera-Ventura’s manager of operations. But these positive steps can move us toward a clean-energy future

Editor’s note: Spear’s commentary, which underscores Aera’s commitment to the future of energy, appeared Jan. 14 in the Ventura County Reporter. We’ve shared it here because we believe it deserves a broader audience.

By Will Spear, manager of operations, Aera-Ventura

A 15-year Aera employee, Will Spear is a Ventura resident and father of two.

A 15-year Aera employee, Will Spear is a Ventura resident and father of two.

The Ventura County Reporter recently published a letter from a Ventura resident who expressed concern for our community, the environment and the future in challenging my employer, a local oil and gas producer, to “turn off the pumps.”

While I share her sense of urgency to address climate change, stopping oil and gas production today in Ventura is not the right move for workers or for the community – and would do nothing to help climate change.

That said, there are steps we can take in Ventura to position the county to build on our history as an oil- and gas-producing area and toward a “net-zero” carbon economy.

I choose to work in the oil and gas industry because it makes a difference in our state and our community. Consider this: Californians typically consume more than 58 million gallons of fuel every day to fuel our economy. In addition, oil-derived products are used for almost everything we touch, including parts for electric vehicles, building blocks for medicines and life-saving equipment, and fuel for airplanes. The latest projections suggest oil and gas products will continue to play a vital role in California for decades to come, even as we make the shifts the energy transition demands.

So, the choice is not whether or not we will require oil and gas, but where do we want it to come from? It matters how we answer the question, since the alternative is more oil from South America and the Middle East – places that do not uphold our same human-rights and environmental standards.

Strengthening the community

As we deliver the oil and gas California needs, we also support jobs and our community. The Ventura oilfield has operated on the city’s west side for more than 100 years and greatly contributes to our local economy and stability of businesses, non-profits and the community at large.

As an example, this past Thanksgiving we teamed with community partners to help feed more than 100 of our neighbors who might otherwise have gone without food. We also helped Westpark Community Center provide Christmas gifts to local children during a time when many of our residents struggled to afford gifts to celebrate the season.

We need a strategic plan based on facts and science that delivers the energy the people of California need today while transitioning to the future.

From Westpark Community Center and the Boys and Girls Club to Kellogg Park and the Westside Community Council and beyond, we actively participate in making our community stronger. In ways big and small, my team and my company make a difference in Ventura.

So, if we will need oil for decades to come, if we want it produced responsibly while delivering the benefits for our community to continue, what about climate change? There are steps we can take to position the county for success in the net-zero economy of the future.

Steps toward a clean-energy future

The first thing is to have a pragmatic plan. California’s journey to a clean-energy future has already revealed many important lessons that suggest a rushed transition can negatively impact our community. Electricity shortages, rotating power outages and statewide Flex Alerts are all results of our sacrificing reliable and affordable power from traditional oil and gas, in favor of renewable energy.

A rushed energy transition risks even greater instability to all of us and further burdens the most vulnerable in our community. We need a strategic plan based on facts and science that delivers the energy the people of California need today while transitioning to the future.

Secondly, instead of pointing fingers, let’s work together to think about how to leverage the resources of the state and Ventura County and attract net-zero energy projects. Today, Aera Energy is investing in ideas that will build a net-zero economy, since many of the solutions we need to thrive in that future come from the know-how and experience that oil and gas workers can bring.

I suggest that we use the energy and emotion around the pace of the energy transition to bring about constructive results. For example, there are steps we must take to make investments in technology like carbon capture and storage viable in places like Ventura. This is a conversation that should happen at the state and local levels with everyone at the table.

As we work hard to provide the affordable energy California needs, Aera will also continue to care for our neighbors and community. Coming together to have meaningful conversations about how to work together for the betterment of our community is a first step. Aera wants to be a player in that conversation and the exciting future a net-zero economy has for all of us.

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