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Why Are California’s Oils Some of the World’s Dirtiest? A Panel With the Oil-Climate Index Team

Monday, April 15, 2019 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Green Earth Sciences
Room 365
367 Panama Street
Stanford, CA 94305

Please join us on April 15 for a panel presentation by the Oil-Climate Index team, a group of researchers who are weighing the greenhouse gas intensity of different sources of petroleum production around the world.

Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C as early as 2030. In an effort to limit the earth’s temperature rise beyond this point, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has developed pathways to decarbonize energy supplies. Meeting these targets will be a tall order for the oil and gas sector. Massive reserves remain worldwide to manufacture transport fuels and countless consumer products. In California, where the oil industry took off 150 years ago, the climate impacts of petroleum are among the largest in the world.

Using an open-source tool developed by researchers at Stanford, Brown and the University of Calgary, the Oil-Climate Index quantifies the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from diverse petroleum resources. We find that a barrel of Midway Sunset oil, California’s largest field, is ten-times more carbon intensive to extract and refine than a barrel of West Texas Intermediate and has two-thirds higher lifecycle GHGs than the U.S. benchmark crude. These findings highlight the need to establish an oil data transparency regime and to craft innovative state, federal, and international policies to reduce emissions from the oil and gas sector during the transition away from fossil fuels. California and other Western states have the opportunity to be a leader in this effort.



  • Jonathan Koomey, Moderator, Special Advisor to the Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute
  • Deborah Gordon, Senior Fellow, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
  • Adam Brandt, Associate Professor of Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford University
  • Joule Bergerson, Associate Professor, Canada Research Chair in Energy Technology Assessment, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Calgary



Jonathan Koomey

Jonathan Koomey is Special Advisor to the Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute. His research focuses on the economics of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the effects of information technology on resource use, and the energy use and economics of data centers. From 2016 to 2018, Koomey served as a research fellow at the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University. For over two decades, he worked at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and has been a visiting professor at Stanford University, Yale University, and the University of California, Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group. Koomey holds master’s and doctoral degrees from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, and a bachelor’s in history of science from Harvard University. He is the author or co-author of nine books and more than 200 articles and reports, including Turning Numbers Into Knowledge: Mastering the Art of Problem Solving and Cold Cash, Cool Climate: Science-Based Advice for Ecological Entrepreneurs (both published by Analytics Press).

Deborah Gordon

She is a Senior Fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. From 2010 to 2018, she was a senior fellow and served as director of the Energy and Climate Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Gordon’s research focuses on the climate implications of oil and gas. She founded the transportation program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, taught at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and worked at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Gordon began her career as a chemical engineer with Chevron and received a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a policy entrepreneur who developed DRIVE+, the first vehicle “feebate” proposal and is leading the Oil Climate Index project. Gordon is the author of two books, edited volumes and numerous articles. She is currently writing her third book, No Standard Oil, under advance contract with Oxford University Press.

Adam Brandt

Brandt is an Associate Professor in the Department of Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford University. His research focuses on reducing the greenhouse gas impacts of energy production and consumption, with a focus on fossil energy systems. Brandt’s research interests include life-cycle assessment of petroleum production and natural gas extraction. A particular interest of his is in unconventional fossil fuel resources such as oil sands, oil shale, and hydraulically fractured oil and gas resources. He also researches computational optimization of emissions mitigation technologies, such as carbon dioxide capture systems. Brandt received his doctorate from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley.

Joule Bergerson

She is an Associate Professor in the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department and the Center for Environmental Engineering Research and Education in the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary. Her primary research interests are systems-level analysis of energy system investment and management for policy and decisionmaking. The focus of Bergerson’s work is developing tools and frameworks for the assessment of prospective technology options and their policy implications from a life-cycle perspective. To date, her work has addressed fossil-fuel-derived electricity, oil sands development, carbon capture and storage, renewable energy, and energy storage technologies.