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California needs balance to undertake energy transition, industry officials say | Local news

As California looks to transition from traditional oil and gas energy, the state must face the reality that it needs a balance that also creates ways to reduce emissions that contribute to global climate change, an industry speaker told a group. in Solvang.

Approximately 100 people from Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties attended the Economic Alliance Foundation forum titled “Local Energy Projects and California’s Energy Transition.”

Thursday’s event at the Craft House at the Corque Hotel in Solvang focused on nuclear and wind energy along with the role of algae. — yes, algae — can play in the future.

“We’re in an exciting region when it comes to energy,” said Ben Oakley of the Western States Petroleum Association and an EconAlliance board member.

“If you think about it, there are few regions that rival the Central Coast in terms of the variety of existing and potential energy sources,” Oakley said, listing nuclear power, conventional oil and gas, offshore oil and gas , offshore wind energy and onshore wind energy. and solar.

The push to phase out fossil fuels like oil and gas should look for ways to balance energy needs and excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, said colleague Mark Nechodom, senior director of science and technology at the WSPA.

Any conversation about non-renewable energy today includes the issue of carbon dioxide, identified as the main greenhouse gas linked to global climate change. This has led to efforts to move away from oil and gas.

“When we worry about climate change and climate mitigation, we worry about a careless imbalance in a system that we don’t understand very well,” Nechodom said, noting that the science on carbon cycles is relatively young.

The Interior Department has outlined a lengthy process for proposed wind farms off the coasts of Morro Bay and Humboldt. Credit: Photo by Janene Scully/Noozhawk

With millions of gallons of gasoline used daily to fuel California’s economy and billions of miles driven by travelers in the state, the solution is not simple. Still, California accounts for only 1% of global emissions, he added.

He told decision makers they must weigh whether the goal involves eliminating fossil fuels or reducing carbon emissions.

“It really matters what problem you think you’re trying to solve because you’ll do certain things when you think that’s the problem to solve,” he said.

Technology exists to address greenhouse gas emissions and he compared the approach to how society addresses other waste management issues.

“We’ve tackled waste management before with some pretty sophisticated technology,” he said. “Does it add costs? Yes. But it’s not just about the cost.

“It is cost-effective, and entire industries arise from managing the waste stream in such a way that you can manage a global economy, care for human well-being and reduce the amount of carbon emissions,” he added.

Later, Lee-Volker Cox of Pacific AgriTech spoke about the company’s pilot project growing microalgae in Santa Barbara County.

This effort is a win for the environment because it significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions, Cox said.

“It’s a win for the consumer because, you may not know, seaweed is used in a wide variety of products, from cosmetics to pharmaceuticals to animal feed. And it’s a win for the organization because you have lower emissions, you make money from the algae and you have the opportunity to earn carbon credits,” Cox said.

Rather than being an oil company, AgriTech is an agricultural company that reduces emissions by growing algae, which it described as a quick and easy product.

Growing 1 ton of seaweed removes about 2 tons of carbon dioxide, he added.

Instead of using a large pond, AgriTech’s approach employs a photobioreactor, or what Cox called “an algae hot tub.”

He said the cost depends on the size of the photobioreactor and other aspects, “but the larger the facility, the lower the costs.”

“Our system also provides optimal culture systems,” he said, adding that open ponds may have contaminants while their system produces pure algae.

Three speakers spoke about wind energy projects, including two proposed for the ocean and one already operating south of Lompoc.

Jennifer Miller, chief of the Renewable Energy Section at the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, describes the process for the proposed wind farm projects off the coast of Morro Bay and Humboldt. Credit: Photo by Janene Scully/Noozhawk

Jennifer Miller, chief of the Renewable Energy Section at the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, provided a look at the long process to develop wind farms in federal waters off the coasts of Morro Bay and Humboldt.

While many questions remain about the proposals, construction operations plans will outline the specific details of the project and allow any potential impacts to be assessed, he said.

“I think it’s a really exciting time. I think there are a lot of opportunities in a lot of places for great development and problem solving,” Miller said, adding that “hopefully this will help the energy transition.”

Another wind energy project remains planned for state waters off the coast of Vandenberg Space Force Base. According to Robert Collier of CADEMO, public forums for that project could be held this fall.