Pedro Isao Mori
The University of La Verne’s annual Robert and Mary Neher Global Sustainability Lecture highlighted how natural gas companies are preparing for the future.
SoCalGas’ Vice President of Communications, Local Government and Community Affairs Andy Carrasco shared the company’s future plans for sustainable energy May 12 in Morgan Auditorium, mainly discussing the company’s future plans for clean hydrogen and other ongoing projects to decrease emissions in customers’ homes.
The talk started off with President Devorah Lieberman sharing the importance of Robert Neher’s legacy at the University. Neher was a biology professor from 1958 to 2013, also serving stints as interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, interim provost, and even as a La Verne city council member.
“You would never find someone who cared more about sustainability than Bob,” Lieberman said. “It was really important to him that the University took the matter seriously.”
Carrasco began his speech by addressing a question he commonly heard: Why is a gas company talking about sustainability?
SoCalGas currently has about 100,000 miles of infrastructure across Southern California and employs about 2,000 people in the state. Therefore, he said they need to begin preparing for the future or a lot of people living in California could see consequences like expensive energy bills, unemployment and so on.
“We have all heard of companies like Kodak and Blockbuster that failed to prepare for the future despite seeing changes decades before,” Carrasco said. “If we don’t begin preparing for the future a lot of people will face problems, the biggest one being climate change.”
He also emphasized that California as a whole needs to evolve if it is going to achieve its ambitious goals targeted at slowing down climate change.
Carrasco added that SoCalGas was the first company in the U.S. to add smart meters and were the first to measure the amounts of methane released in renewable natural gas.
SoCalGas plans on reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 in all of their operations, according to Carrasco. This includes the production of energy, the delivery and consumption of it by customers. They also plan on reaching the status of a 100% clean vehicle company by 2035 with their new fleet of Toyota Mirai vehicles arriving recently.
The Mirai is a part of a much larger project going on at the company. Unlike most low emission vehicles that use electricity, the Mirai is powered by hydrogen. SoCalGas’s planned project, the Angeles Link, would be the largest green hydrogen infrastructure in the United States.
The main aim of the project would be to electrify things that are traditionally harder to do, such as industrial production and heavy duty trucks. It would also decrease the demand for natural gas and potentially remove up to 25,000 tons of smog from the air, the equivalent of removing 3.1 million cars off the roads.
Professor of Humanities Al Clark shared some skepticism because natural gas is not a renewable form of energy and is a large generator of methane.
Carrasco said that natural gas would slowly fizzle out over time. Other projects that the company is working on include the expanded use of wind and solar energy, he said.
La Verne alumnus Sal Landeros asked how the expenses of the Angeles Link was going to be covered.
To this Carrasco said that by using existing infrastructure and repurposing it for its use in the future, they could significantly reduce the overall cost of the project. He added in the long run, the projects may pay for themselves as they could provide more customers with increased access to energy.
Pedro Isao Mori can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.