The oil and gas industry has been a major contributor to the local economy of Orange County, CA for many years. Lease payments to landlords and property taxes paid to the county have been the biggest contributions of oil to the local economy. However, most of the oil wells in the county have been shut down. It is essential for communities living near oil and gas wells to be involved in making decisions about leases and be trained to identify leaks and spills.
Recently, President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian oil, but U. S. oil companies are still on track to achieve a record year of production with 9,000 drilling permits. The Oil-Climate Index Plus Gas (OCI+) project is also providing an analysis of life cycle emissions from most of the world's oil resources, along with the specific production, processing and refining activities that contribute to those emissions. At first glance, it might seem that California is above this sudden rush to extract local oil, with all its electric cars and solar panels.
However, at the bottom of the Midway-Sunset oil field in Kern County, California, oil and oil pipelines flow through while a cogeneration plant releases steam. Midway-Sunset oil has always been heavy and complex, requiring large amounts of energy both to extract and refine it into final products such as gasoline and diesel fuel. According to data from the Oil-Climate Plus Gas Index (OCI+), barrel by barrel, Midway-Sunset produces even more pollution than Canada's most notorious oil sands. Giving greater visibility to this sector will allow companies, investors, advocates, legislators and regulators to take steps to curb the dirtiest production and refining operations and dramatically reduce emissions associated with fossil fuels in the state. Southern California is home to 53% of the state's total oil refining capacity and represents nearly half of all industry jobs. In the Bay Area, from southern Sonoma County to Santa Clara County, the oil and gas industry generates 81,510 jobs. Reforms could begin with a review of historic oil and gas leasing structures which are 100 years old, to ensure community participation from the planning stages to the drilling itself and long after the well has been shut down (so-called “inactive wells” can release toxic emissions).Fortunately, data available for comparing oil-producing regions and even individual oil and gas operations is rapidly improving. San Joaquin Valley is home to more than 83% of all active wells and represents 75% of California's total crude oil production. Oil companies are now injecting steam into the oil field using “improved recovery techniques” to force crude oil to the surface.
However, despite all the risks, communities most affected by drilling, refining, and transportation remain virtually excluded from the complex state and federal decision-making system that oversees oil and gas permitting. The benefits that oil and gas companies bring to Orange County are undeniable. Lease payments provide a steady source of income for landlords while property taxes help fund public services such as schools and hospitals. The OCI+ project is also helping reduce emissions associated with fossil fuels in California by providing data on life cycle emissions from different sources. Finally, reforms are needed to ensure that communities living near wells are involved in making decisions about leases and are trained to identify leaks or spills.