oil extraction field

Identifying equitable pathways to reach carbon neutrality in California’s transportation sector


Governor Newsom affirmed the State’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045 in the 2019 Budget Act. To achieve this goal, the State will need to dramatically reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while permanently removing carbon from the atmosphere. These efforts will include managing strategic statewide reductions in fossil fuel demand and supply; electrifying key sectors and end uses; and making significant investments in transitioning the transportation sector and the electrical grid to zero carbon emissions. These shifts will need to take place alongside targeted investments in communities and in the State’s workforce to ensure that this transition maximizes equity, resiliency, health, and environmental quality across the State. 

The transportation sector is an especially important priority for California. When including fossil fuel extraction and refining, the transportation sector accounts for half of California’s GHG emissions. Through the 2019 Budget Act, the Newsom Administration funded two studies to identify strategies to reduce the demand for and supply of fossil fuels, with the goal of dramatically reducing GHG emissions across the transportation sector. In a collaboration between emLab’s Climate & Energy program, UCSB’s Earth Science Department, and the Clean Energy Transformation Lab, we have conducted the second of the two studies which focuses on the supply-side of the transportation sector.


We developed a model to evaluate the implications of long-term transportation-specific carbon neutrality policy scenarios. To accomplish this work, our team combined state-of-the-art economic analyses and energy modeling with an in-depth understanding of climate science and public health. We modeled oil and gas activity associated with a suite of different policy options and quantified the community-level changes on labor markets and health risks associated with local pollution. Our study specifically focused on the supply-side of the transportation sector and the team worked in tandem with a demand-side study conducted by the UC Institute of Transportation Studies to aid state officials in identifying carbon neutrality pathways.

infographic of project approach, showing inputs and outputs of the system

Key Findings

  1. GHGs and extraction: An 80% statewide crude oil production quota would decrease greenhouse gases emitted from in-state extraction by 90% in 2045 compared to 2019 levels.
  2. GHGs and refining: Greenhouse gas emissions from refining in California would decrease by 69% in 2045, compared to 2019, if a low carbon transportation fuel demand pathway is combined with a phasing out of exports of refined products. Persistent refining GHG emissions in 2045 reflect growing demand for liquid renewable fuels, continued demand for jet aviation fuel and potential exports of refined products.
  3. Health and refining: The refining decarbonization scenarios would result in up to 2,500 avoided deaths in California between 2019 and 2045, compared to a scenario in which no decarbonization policies are implemented. 
  4. Equity and extraction: Crude oil production quota, or an equivalent severance tax, results in cleaner air and health benefits for disadvantaged communities. As air pollution from extraction declines, disadvantaged communities receive a greater share of the air quality benefit (although disadvantaged communities will still bear a disproportionate pollution burden in 2045).
  5. Labor: Statewide low carbon crude oil extraction policies would have the highest net impact on labor markets in Kern County in terms of total employment and worker compensation, whereas statewide low carbon refining scenario policies would have the highest net impact on labor markets in Los Angeles County.


This project is a collaboration with Dr. David Lea of UCSB’s Earth Science Department, Dr. Ranjit Desmukh and Anagha Uppal of UCSB’s Clean Energy Transformation Lab, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the Institute of Transportation Studies.


Enhancing equity while eliminating emissions in California’s supply of transportation fuels
This supply-side study focuses on managing a strategic, responsible decline in transportation-related fossil fuel supply and projects how statewide policies focused on extraction and refining will impact state- and local-level greenhouse gas emissions, equity, health, and labor markets.


Joint Summary: UC ITS and UCSB studies suggest how California can finally decarbonize its transportation sector
Summary of the main takeaways from the two Carbon Neutrality studies (Study 1 and Study 2) that, together, identify strategies to reduce California’s fossil fuel supply in parallel demand, with the goal of dramatically reducing emissions across the state’s transportation sector. 


Carbon Neutrality and California’s Transportation Fossil Fuel Supply
Synthesis Report that details the current trends and characteristics of California’s transportation-related fossil fuel extraction and refining, and associated greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and workforce, with a focus on equity considerations.