Inside Aera
Energy Matters Dec 19, 2019

California: Oil and gas can be part of our clean-energy future

Aera’s leader calls for the state to tap into the industry’s unique knowledge, innovative abilities and problem-solving skills

Christina Sistrunk, President and CEO, Aera Energy

Christina Sistrunk, President and CEO, Aera Energy

By Christina Sistrunk, President and CEO, Aera Energy

Dear California:

Holiday greetings from Aera Energy’s headquarters in Bakersfield.  Wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying this festive time of year.

There’s a positive mood at Aera, and not just because it’s the season of cheer. It’s also a time to reflect on 2019’s performance, and we’re all feeling proud of what Aera has accomplished this year.

Together, we have continued to produce one-fourth of California’s oil and gas to meet your everyday needs. We’ve done it with the safest, cleanest and most advanced methods in the world, performing at a very high level in a challenging environment. And we look forward to sustaining our role for decades to come.

If I had one holiday wish this year, it would be to focus California’s public conversation on the positive role the oil and gas industry can – and should – play in helping lead California to a clean-energy future.

Instead, misinformation and negative bias dominate today’s energy discussion. Like you, we’ve seen the headlines and heard the calls to end oil and gas production in California. We don’t, however, foresee that happening. In fact, there is a growing realization that removing California’s oil and gas production from the equation does nothing to change the state’s energy demand picture.

Consider these facts:

  • Hydrocarbon use is still growing in California, despite 30% of the energy grid running on renewables, a year ahead of the state’s 2020 goal.
  • Vehicle miles are increasing. California is home to more than 25 million registered automobiles, more than any other state. After a decade of intense effort to encourage people to switch to electric cars, consumers are still choosing gas-powered vehicles.
  • Seventy percent of California’s oil comes from imports – and increasingly from Iraq and Saudi Arabia. California’s own production makes up the difference in delivering the energy required to maintain your quality of life. Does it make sense to ship a key source of California’s income and jobs to countries that do not adhere to our high production, environmental and human-rights standards?
  • The outcry over greenhouse gases (GHGs) often points to California-generated emissions. Yet California, with the world’s fifth largest economy, contributes just .7% of global GHGs. There are much greater GHG sources elsewhere. China is, by far, the world’s largest emitter of CO2.

Oil and gas can be part of the solution

Aera and California’s oil and gas sector are uniquely positioned to help lead the state through its clean-energy transition. Achieving a carbon-neutral position is our aspiration, and we’re actively engaged in identifying and pursuing new technologies to continue reducing our GHG emissions. Unlike any other state or nation, including the states we import from, California’s oil and gas producers also pay cap-and-trade costs on all emissions associated with our production. That gives us the incentive to innovate and improve our carbon footprint.

But something else is needed. California needs a wider level of engagement to truly create plans that deliver for you, its citizens. We cannot have a few academics and bureaucrats determining our long-term energy policy. Business, government and community leaders should be working together to reach our shared goal of a clean-energy future.

In my experience, solving complex problems requires creating a plan that includes multiple paths for a successful outcome. There is a huge difference between setting goals and delivering actual results. The oil and gas industry has accomplished both over time. We have broad experience in working collaboratively with community. We have taken on difficult technological challenges and found solutions. We have a proven track record of safety and environmental improvements. Innovation is part of our strategy.

As one example, our industry could well contribute to the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects. Of the 51 large-scale CCS projects underway in the world, not one is located in California. If California had supportive policies in place, the oil and gas industry could apply its knowledge and capabilities to make CCS part of the pathway toward a carbon-neutral future.

It’s also important to recognize that no one solution fits all, especially in a state as large and diverse as California. What works in the Bay Aera, with its dense population and access to public transportation, is unlikely to succeed in sprawling Los Angeles, which relies heavily on automobiles. Likewise, different solutions are required for the Central Valley, with its lower population density, economic challenges and greater distances between places of business, education, medical care and community services.

It is essential for the oil and gas industry to continue to be at the table as California addresses the challenge of reducing the state’s carbon footprint while simultaneously preserving the health of our economy. We need a viable mechanism, and that is lacking today.

I call on you, California, to urge your legislators and state officials to include the oil and gas industry in their discussions and policy-building plans. Encourage them to tap into our expertise and experience. We too are citizens of California. We’re living here, working here and raising our families here.

Working together, we can make California the leader in providing a more sustainable energy future while preserving the economic health and quality of life that make all of us want to call California home.

DID YOU KNOW? Aera Energy is named to Forbes America’s Midsize Employers List for the fourth time and is among the top midsize companies to work for in the United States.

Aera Energy