Santa Barbara County officials have scheduled workshops next week to consider the future of renewable energy projects.

The meetings couldn’t come at a better time. County officials are wrestling with proposals for increased oil production in North County, while world leaders wrestle with issues related to global oil supplies.

Santa Barbara County is widely known for its history of oil development as well as the environmental opposition to it, in large part because our county was the scene of an oil spill disaster in 1969 in the Santa Barbara Channel, an event that captured the world’s attention.

It's part of the reason Earth Day came into being.

The result of that spill resonates to this day, and whenever new oil development is proposed and public meetings are held, anti-oil residents show up in considerable numbers.

The questions they usually pose focus on how oil projects tend to degrade the environment and local property values. The resulting debates are generally very high-spirited.

The global issue is related, as industrialized nations wonder about the future of oil, which is of natural necessity, finite, and how oil-based economies can be converted to renewable sources such as wind and solar.

The United States officially became the top oil producer last year, but won’t stay on top very long, mostly because when it comes to oil reserves, this nation isn’t even in the top five worldwide. Places one through five on that list are Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iran and Iraq. All of those countries except Canada are experiencing considerable political and social problems.

In that context, the global oil situation is unstable, which underlines the importance of the county’s strategy of conducting workshops to discuss the possible future of renewable energy.

The first of the two workshops will be held next Thursday, April 4, beginning at 4:30 p.m. at the Buellton Recreation Center, 301 Second St.

The location is ideal, because the focus of that session will be talking to, and getting feedback from farmers, ranchers and other agricultural stakeholders about adding onsite energy options at their properties and facilities.

The second workshop is in Santa Maria on Friday, April 5, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Business Development Center, 731 S. Lincoln St.

That workshop also is aimed at landholders, mostly finance and investment partners, and will help identify strategies for developing local clean, reliable and sustainable energy focusing on tax incentives for investment in local opportunity zones.

This is a savvy approach and a perfect starting point for any conversations about the future of energy, and something of a counterpoint to the ongoing debate over future oil development in the region. This strategy also shows county officials are taking the long view, looking past the immediate and considering what happens in the future when oil supplies are depleted or tightening, forcing prices to new heights.

Many of us experienced what happens when oil supplies get squeezed after foreign suppliers clamped down in the mid-1970s. For California drivers, it was buying gasoline on days determined by the odd or even numbers on your license plate.

That was an early warning about what can happen, and at some time in the future likely will happen. We are an oil-driven socio-economic system today, but how long will the oil last?

Talking about and planning our energy future is the smart move, and the sooner those conversations begin in earnest, the better.

We are blessed to live in a place where the sun shines, a lot, and the wind blows, a lot. That’s our energy future.

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