There is no place like Kern. No other county in the state, and maybe even a nation, has so many large, commercial-sized energy sources – oil, gas, hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind, and continued development of fuels. alternatives, such as biodiesel.
Indeed, it is a blessing. Every source should be celebrated and supported. All of them are essential to diversifying Kern’s economy beyond oil and agriculture – creating jobs and isolating Kern from economic booms and collapses.
California’s drive to switch to zero-emission vehicles and other green initiatives has sparked legitimate fears in Kern County about the future of the local oil industry and the many families who depend on oil-related jobs.
But there are also opportunities emerging with this push. This includes the production of cleaner transportation fuels, such as renewable diesel and biodiesel, as well as renewable energy.
Lorelei Oviatt, director of the county’s planning and natural resources department, predicted in a community energy discussion earlier this month that within 10 years Kern would become a center of excellence in the field. carbon management, which involves removing greenhouse gases from the air and injecting them deep into the county’s vast oil reservoirs.
Commenting on a new partnership involving Bakersfield College and the US Department of Energy, David Mooney, administrator of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, noted that Kern was the first investment in clean energy storage and installation because of its large solar and wind power plants. This includes material design, manufacturing automation, cybersecurity, and agro-voltaics, where solar panels are mounted above crops that benefit from partial coverage.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has joined with community colleges to encourage the development of renewable energy technology and workforce training.
Kern Community College District Chancellor Tom Burke notes that the initiative is expected to help leverage Kern’s oil and gas assets, clean energy resources and existing local investments in geothermal power generation, the bioenergy and commercial scale solar and wind farms.
The diversification of Kern’s energy development beyond traditional oil also benefits agriculture, a pillar of the local economy. As an example, consider the group of Kern dairies equipped with “digesters” that harvest and convert methane from cow manure into renewable fuel. The state tax incentive dollars help support the effort.
Earlier this month, the Kern County Supervisory Board asked county staff to review tax incentives created a decade ago to support the startup solar energy sector. Incentives, which allow properties of solar power plants to be taxed at a lower rate, are set to expire in 2025
“I think we need to know now what the implications will be of this alleged replacement of our oil and gas industry with renewables,” Supervisor Zack Scrivner said calling for a study in light of the industry’s current profitability. .
Any consideration of local incentives to support energy development – oil or innovative green energy – must go beyond simple fiscal considerations. The value of these industries in local job creation and economic stability must be taken into account.
During the Great Recession of 2008, Congress passed and President Obama signed the US $ 800 billion Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Billions of dollars of the law have been used for federal loan guarantees to help develop the wind and solar industries in California. The spending was aimed at getting people back to work, building long-term factories, improving the environment with clean energy, and supporting communities.
The money has also been used to promote clean energy manufacturing in the United States. As a result, wind turbines produced in the country went from 25% before the law was passed to 72% afterwards.
According to energy surveys, over the past decade, wind power and solar capacity in the United States have exploded and costs have plummeted. Solar and wind power are now two of the cheapest sources of electricity generation, according to industry reports.
We are now facing an economic recession from a pandemic that is expected to rival or exceed the Great Recession.
The $ 2.2 trillion relief package signed by President Trump earlier this year did not include clean energy. Congress and the White House are deadlocked on a second relief bill.
Kern’s economy has been hit by a downturn in the oil industry, job losses and business closures in the event of a pandemic. Now is the time to support all industries that create jobs – and that includes all of Kern’s miscellaneous energy industries.