One of the great challenges of our time is what to do with all that carbon in the atmosphere. On Tuesday, Kern County stepped forward with the seed of an answer. Or, multiple answers, as the case may be. One answer is to put it deep in the ground. Carbon sequestration, it is called. But there may be more solutions, and on Tuesday Kern County officials announced an innovative and potentially game-changing approach to discovering them. An approach that might be an example not just to California but the world.
Kern County, with help from the U.S. Department of Energy, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and other partners, will develop a 30 million square foot, 4,000 acre business park dedicated to dealing with carbon – a natural byproduct of fossil fuels and other emissions and the central culprit in climate change. And powering the whole thing – a 30,000 acre solar farm on land no longer viable for agriculture. The Clean Energy and Carbon Management Business Park in west Kern – still in the very early stages of development – is intended to be the home of private sector investment in new carbon management technologies, from Direct Air Capture to Green Hydrogen. All five county supervisors along with three key county administrators gathered Tuesday to make the announcement. Supervisor Zack Scrivner’s district includes much of the county’s oil fields. “This process will include a stakeholder process with our partners and community,” he said, “in understanding what types of industries and jobs could be a reality in just the next few years.”
Renewable energy brought $60 billion of private and public investment to the county over the last 15 years and the hope is that the business park can do it again. If any of this sounds vague, that’s because much of it is. The purpose of the research grant is to help Kern and its several partners – among them Cal State Bakersfield, the Kern Community College District, and the City of Bakersfield – in the development of clean carbon management industries. Kern County wasn’t the only local government making announcements about our energy future. The City of Bakersfield and the Kern Community College District made a separate announcement Tuesday afternoon about a Department of Energy research grant of their own – part of the same Local Energy Action Program – designed to help communities create plans that reduce local air pollution, increase energy resilience, and lower both utility costs and energy burdens. Bakersfield and Kern County are two of the inaugural 22 jurisdictions around the country receiving these DOE grants, funded by the Biden administration’s $1.3 trillion infrastructure bill.