Two new reports out this week examine California’s oil fields and how the high-emitting oil extracted from many of them poses a threat to the environment and human health. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports that one of them is in Kern County.
Midway Sunset is the oldest oil field in California and according to a study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace its also one of the most productive. With that comes a lot of emissions of things like fine particulate matter and carbon dioxide. The reports look at emissions from more than 150 oils in the state and the group says more needs to be done to better regulate the state’s oil resources.
"By knowing more about its oil California has the opportunity to transform a critical sector and the oil sector is definitely going to have to respond to a warming world," says Deborah Gordon, the group's Energy and Climate Program. "California has a leadership role to play here."
She says increased transparency in oil production and refining could open the door for future reductions of air quality emissions.
"These oils are extremely complex . . . the better you know them the better you can handle them" Gordon says. "What are we doing as we extract them? There's information that needs to be more transparent in the production side of things, but also in the refining end and the different products that they make because they are becoming more unconventional."
But not everyone in the oil industry agrees with the report’s suggestions.
"These opinion pieces completely ignore California's global leadership in air quality and greenhouse gas emissions," says Kara Siepmann, spokesperson for the Western States Petroleum Association representing oil companies in the six western states.
Siepmann says the members she represents are committed to operating safely and already use the best environmental practices available.
“In California oil production is already subject to the most stringent regulations in the country," Siepmann says. "I can tell you with certainty that there’s no place in the world with more transparency and oversight of the petroleum industry.”
Even still the report's authors still say increased transparency would create better policy, raise consumer awareness and maybe even make the air healthier to breath in places like Kern County.