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Governor Gavin Newsom declared a little more than a week ago that not only will California effectively outlaw hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, by 2024, but that the state will also seek to phase out oil production completely by 2045.

“As we move to swiftly decarbonize our transportation sector and create a healthier future for our children,” he said in a statement just after Earth Day, “I’ve made it clear I don’t see a role for fracking in that future and, similarly, believe that California needs to move beyond oil.”
It was – as promised last Year by the Governor that the State would prohibit the sale of new gas powered cars by 2035 – a comprehensive declaration that aimed to be urgent in dealing with climate change while fighting with many of the worst consequences.

However, complicated regulatory maneuvering is necessary to achieve these objectives.A ban on fracking, a technique for extracting oil and natural gas by fracturing underground rock formations, as well as a broader move away from fossil fuel production, has long been sought by environmental groups but vehemently opposed by trade and labor groups seeking to protect employment, particularly in places like Kern County, where the oil industry is a dominant force.

I wanted to learn more about California’s plans, so I talked with two of the state’s top environmental officials: Jared Blumenfeld, the head of the California Environmental Protection Agency, and Wade Crowfoot, the director of the California Natural Resources Agency. Here are some highlights from our discussion.

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California Ban Fragmentation
Image Source: The New York Times

First, I want to ask you to explain a bit more about the governor’s announcement. What more will the state need to do to meet that 2045 goal?
We therefore set as a state a bold carbon neutrality objective of 2045. Then in the middle of this orange sky apocalypse last October, when I went out with the governor, he was like: “You have to do everything you can to accelerate this and look into something else we do not.” In this context, we examined transport—50% of greenhouse gas emissions from California originate in the transport sector, which is much bigger than the rest of the country. We have therefore established that sales mandate for 2035.

But we also needed to consider supply, as we needed to comprehend the type of curve and prepare for a smooth transition. To do so, we needed a bold target to put an end to oil extraction in the state. Fracking is part of a larger picture of how we want to get to our target of carbon neutrality.
California is the country’s seventh-largest oil producer. Our oil output has been declining since the mid-1980s, when we were higher on the list.
However, I think the relevance of this announcement lies in the fact that California is the first place we know on earth to integrate this supply transition and complete oil extraction phase-out into our demand objectives.

California Ban Fragmentation
Image Source: The New York Times

But how much of a dent will banning fracking — or ending the issuance of new fracking permits, as would be the case here — make in the state’s oil and gas production?

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Crowfoot: Fracking was not even controlled by permission prior to 2014. Prior to this, a study of the Science and Technology Council in California suggested that approximately 20 percent of California oil was manufactured by fracking. And in California, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 jobs were created each year.

In the first 3 years of implementation of the 2014 bill, the permits were decreased to an average of around 220 per year, possibly by the strongest regulations in the country on fracking. They dipped under 100 last year to their lowest point. At present, fracking in California is estimated to produce about 2% of the oil.
In response to your larger question: According to studies from the University of California, without any policy action — ultimately due to market-driven powers — oil production would decline by 40% by 2045. But, what exactly are such policy interventions? That’s where Jared’s department and the California Air Resources Board come into play when it comes to drafting rules.

How would you respond to criticism that this whole regulatory process is not going fast enough? Or that the governor should have fought harder for the recent bill that would have accomplished much of this through the Legislature, but died pretty quickly?
Blumenfeld: This approach ensures that we stick to what we do.

California is important: our ambition is one thing, but the execution is also there.

We truly track and ensure our ambition is fulfilled by the Air Resources Board and other state agencies, ensuring that our actions are legally sustainable and enforceable.

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California Ban Fragmentation
Image Source: The New York Times

What about on the flip side: How would you respond to concerns that these actions would eliminate good-paying jobs that many people and communities, particularly in the Central Valley, rely on? Do you see something similar to what happened with the big coal miners’ union deal happening in California?

Crowfoot: The “just transition” was talked about by Jared. What we have to do is identify and build good-paid jobs in the technologies that will power the future economy of California. This covers renewable energy, renewable energy — even offshore winds — and oil field regeneration. We are working to develop these opportunities in partnership with affected locations.

Blumenfeld: In this regard, the transition from coal to natural gas is extremely fast. It was expected to take generations, but it happened much more quickly.

Here, we’re attempting to convey the importance of a thoughtful, deliberate transition period in which real investments are made. The coal miners’ union made it clear that they want well-paying jobs. As a result, we must be able to provide the roadmap and assurance.

Source: The New York Times

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