OPED BY SLO MAYOR HEIDI HARMON, First published in the TRIBUNE Aug 22, 2021 The quality of the air one breathes shouldn’t depend on your zip code. As we gear up to return to post-pandemic life, we need to change the societal divisions COVID-19 highlighted. Environmental injustice, systemic racism and income disparities must be eradicated. While I’m grateful that my […]
OPED BY SLO MAYOR HEIDI HARMON, First published in the TRIBUNE
Aug 22, 2021
The quality of the air one breathes shouldn’t depend on your zip code. As we gear up to return to post-pandemic life, we need to change the societal divisions COVID-19 highlighted.
Environmental injustice, systemic racism and income disparities must be eradicated. While I’m grateful that my children and my parents survived the pandemic, I’m not sure they will get through the climate crisis.
It’s incredibly difficult to be a parent and think about the future where climate disasters might become the norm. Honestly, my 26-year-old is having an existential crisis with the knowledge that these hard times are only going to get worse if we don’t take substantial actions now. For all these reasons, I implore the governor to declare a climate state of emergency. We need bold action.
We need to focus on the build-out of offshore wind as an essential part of our clean energy arsenal to combat this crisis.
I’m excited to see offshore wind coming to Morro Bay. These technological marvels could supply the state with all its electricity needs. Researchers with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently estimated California alone could realize up to 200,000 megawatts of energy off its shores. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that building just 10 gigawatts of offshore wind power in California would support thousands of jobs, supply competitively priced power for at least 3.5 million homes, and generate $20 billion in GDP by 2050.
The time has come to rebuild with more awareness and dedication to justice. We’ll need good-paying jobs and new training opportunities to be created. The clean energy economy offers a pathway for many. Building a grid that doesn’t rely on gas, but has many renewable energy sources will be key to stopping forced rolling blackouts and protecting our national security. The American Jobs Plan, once passed as Biden envisages, will have funds that will help that goal.
Until now, labor unions and fossil fuel workers have opposed limiting oil and gas extraction. Fortunately, with the shutdown of the Marathon refinery in Martinez, many unions have seen the writing on the wall. As a parent, I know contemplating an uncertain future all too well. I understand the trepidation workers feel realizing they’ll need to be retrained, maybe even relocated.
A recent union-funded report previews a model for a just transition with the backing of 19 unions, some of which represent oil refining and extraction union jobs. They’ve realized that a clean energy revolution is happening and want to secure a future for their workers. The report estimates as many as 626,000 clean energy jobs per year will be created, with additional employment in related areas. The report accounts for Contra Costa, Kern and Los Angeles counties, which have more than half of the state’s fossil fuel jobs, proving a just transition is possible.
But the report neglects offshore wind’s potential, which alone could power the state.
Thousands of highly-skilled jobs will be created, attracting workers from the oil and gas industry. Offshore wind platforms were developed using oil industry designs. A lot of the skill sets are similar. Career opportunities offered by offshore wind range from data scientists, welders, accountants, safety technicians all the way up to marine biologists and engineers.
Port revitalization alone can add up to 6,000 local, full-time equivalent jobs per port right away, according to a report from Brightline Defense. Offshore wind will generate thousands of additional jobs in construction, manufacturing, turbine demonstration, and transmission line projects. Apprenticeship training programs will add new career pathways in the trades. These opportunities will also prepare the state’s workforce to build, operate and maintain a 100 percent clean energy electricity grid.
The state is preparing for the boon. AB 525, requires state agencies to set offshore wind production goals and create proposals for increasing this consistent energy resource by 2045.
Last spring, roughly 399 square miles off the Central Coast for offshore wind development were opened up by President Biden. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had already initiated the leasing process for three sites in Humboldt Bay, Morro Bay and Diablo Canyon, estimating that more than 17,500 good-paying jobs by 2045 would be created in key regions that lack high-skilled job opportunities, while improving the air quality for communities.
By meeting our electricity needs through clean offshore wind and other clean energy sources, California will be able to deliver air quality improvements desperately needed for frontline communities. About 78 percent of our gas power plants are in communities identified by CalEPA as having the state’s highest burden of poverty and cumulative environmental health burdens. Building a world where we all can breathe clean air could be a great bonus for transitioning oil and gas workers.https://fb0cfa31266bef1ca4207900d72fb91f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
In order to heed the International Energy Agency report’s warning, governments must stop approving new oil and gas production in order to avert the most catastrophic effects of the climate crisis.
I want to be able to play with my grandchildren on the beach, knowing the air everyone breathes is cleaner than today, knowing we took the opportunity to build back better for all.
Heidi Harmon is serving her third term as mayor of San Luis Obispo.