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ESE Seminar - Sarah Saltzer: "Pathways to Carbon Neutrality in California: 6 Key findings"

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California has long been a leader in climate policy, which has inspired climate policies globally and across the U.S. The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as Assembly Bill (AB) 32, was the first program in the country to require a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and take a comprehensive, long-term approach to doing so.  Since the passing of AB 32, several other policies have been put in place to support California’s ambition for climate action, most notably, Executive Order B-55-18, which calls for the state to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

Additionally, AB 32 requires the California Air Resources Board to develop a Scoping Plan that describes a pathway to reduce GHGs.  The 2022 Scoping Plan lays out a sector-by-sector roadmap for the state based on a technologically feasible, cost-effective, and equity-focused path. The goal of a recently completed Stanford study was to provide an independent assessment of decarbonization options and alternatives – including electrification, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), biofuels, hydrogen, carbon dioxide removal (CDR), and other technologies – illuminating the most effective, economical, and feasible pathways to net-zero.  Additional findings that will be elaborated on in the presentation include:

  • All technologies and resources will be needed to get to net zero by 2045.
  • Electrification will require major expansion to the existing grid
  • Going from 99% to 100% carbon-free electricity generation is very expensive without 100% clean dispatchable power.
  • Gradual progress towards ambitious ZEV sales goals is effective.
  • Point source CCS is effective and economically favorable for the industrial sector
  • CDR is an essential part of getting to net zero.


Dr. Sarah Saltzer is the Managing Director of the Stanford Center for Carbon Storage and is leading the effort to launch a new Carbon Management Initiative at Stanford.  She was also recently named to the Biden-Harris Administration’s Carbon Dioxide Capture, Utilization and Sequestration (CCUS) Non-Federal Lands Task Force.  Sarah spent 25 years at Chevron where she held a series of scientific, managerial, and executive roles. She has a diversity of experience in positions of increasing responsibility, including geology research and teaching, petroleum engineering, leading exploration teams,  competitor analysis and business planning and strategy.  Dr. Saltzer holds a M.S. and B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

References and Related Papers

Website link:

Joshua Neutel, Andrew Berson, Sarah Saltzer, Franklin Orr, Adam Brandt, Sally Benson (2024). What will it take to get to net-zero emissions in California? Paper presented at the SPE Western Regional Meeting, April 16–18, 2024, Paper Number: SPE-218852-MS

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