If we’re smart, thoughtful and collaborative, we can find solutions that deliver a sustainable energy future for California
By Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president, Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA)
No matter where you look, the U.S. oil and gas industry is making extraordinary contributions that benefit our lives.
We’re powering homes and businesses, providing good jobs and supporting families and communities. The petroleum we supply makes possible thousands of products, including transportation fuels, that we rely on every day.
We’re complying with regulations, reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment. In our oilfields, plants and refineries, we’re using cutting-edge technology and innovating in ways undreamed of when I joined this industry 36 years ago.
We’re providing tens of millions of dollars of tax revenues that help drive our economy. We’re creating partnerships in renewable energy endeavors. All the while, we’re helping ensure energy independence for our nation.
Other voices, complex issues
The reality is, however, that our industry and the world we all live in face many complex issues that can’t be solved overnight or by utterly dismissing oil and gas. For example:
- Climate change – When it comes to climate change, the oil and gas industry shares the same sense of urgency many people feel. For us, the urgency centers on making sure we take the right approach, not just the most politically convenient one. We believe that the only truly sustainable energy future is one that aligns the interests of our environment, our sense of social equality and our shared economic prosperity.
We recognize and embrace the importance and promise of renewable energy sources. But the fact remains that the internal combustion engine will continue to be the primary way 40 million Californians get to work and school for the foreseeable future. And if we make it harder to produce oil in the state, we will do more harm than good. According to several California government and independent partisan studies, climate regulations and excise taxes on fuels already cost consumers $1.07 a gallon at the pump.
So, the question we should be asking ourselves is how do we come together as one California to drive the most immediate improvements in carbon emission reductions, economic security and reliable access to energy for all?
- Transportation and fuel policies – California’s transportation infrastructure underpins our economy. It moves millions of dollars of goods and supports one-third of the state’s economy as well as millions of jobs. Most families and small businesses rely on petroleum fuels for their day-to-day transportation needs. They depend on a reliable, affordable fuel supply. A broad array of policies and regulations affect petroleum-based fuels, some intending to reduce demand while others may impact supply.
The oil and gas industry supports reasonable transportation fuel policies that clean the air and improve quality of life. But we must also consider how these policies affect consumers, particularly working-class and disadvantaged families disproportionately impacted by higher fuel costs and reduced availability. In a Forbes article last year, USC law professor George Lefcoe noted, “Automobiles are the survival mechanism for low-income people. If you try to increase the cost of automobiles, you hurt low-income people.”
Future policy directives should first ensure that the cost and availability of transportation fuels used by the vast majority of Californians are not put at risk. Such widely impactful considerations must bring to the table a wide range of experts and interests, including the oil and gas industry, to ensure worthwhile, fair and equitable outcomes.
Working together at the table
If we’re thoughtful and deliberate, we can find solutions that deliver everything from a healthy environment to a thriving economy, from social equality to abundant energy. But it will take intelligent, informed discussion, with support and vision from leaders in both the private and public sectors, to chart a future together.
It’s important that all voices be at the table, because a truly sustainable energy future has to consider the multiple needs of all Californians. It has to be done intentionally, not accidentally.
Balancing all those needs won’t be as easy feat. But if we gather all of us on common ground, we will find enough points of agreement to lay a strong foundation. We can build on that to protect the environment, ensure energy independence, provide solid jobs and keep people moving.