2022 Grants Challenge

Moving L.A. Beyond Oil in a Generation

Imagine 2050. The gas-powered vehicle is extinct in L.A., with great benefits to our air, life expectancy, and green economy. Our journalistic series — co-published with local and national partners — will portray the city’s successful renewable energy transformation. We’ve long investigated the sources of our deadly pollution and its unequal burdens for low-income communities. Now we will establish a narrative on the business and policy decisions, technology, and special challenges necessary to end our oil addiction in a generation.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Climate and Environment

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA

West LA

South Bay

Antelope Valley

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Applying a proven model or solution to a new issue or sector (e.g., using a job recruiting software or strategy to match clients to supportive housing sites, applying demonstrated strategies from advocating for college affordability to advocating for housing affordability and homelessness, etc.)

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

We face worsening climate-related risks due to fossil fuels we burn to power millions of cars, cook most food, and heat many homes and businesses. We also pump a great deal of oil in L.A. — some for use in the U.S., and some for export. All of this aggravates climate change. We are so immersed in oil in L.A., both geographically and economically, we rarely notice it. Oil derricks tower over us and burrow beneath our homes. At times, they hide in plain sight; just off the Fairfax High School campus, next to the Beverly Center, throughout the hills between Culver City and Inglewood, and around Wilmington, and beyond. As replacement technology and infrastructure improves, big questions about the renewable transition remain on financing, cost, equity, policy, incentives for energy producers and others. But ending oil use will result in a cleaner Pacific Ocean, better air, healthier food, and improved health for Angelenos, and more residential space to respond to the housing crunch.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Capital & Main will — through an extensive and innovative series of articles, “sticky” online content and videos — lay out the core problems caused by our reliance on fossil fuels. We will also produce and distribute a wide array of forward-looking material inspired by interviews with visionary thinkers, experts and even futurists versed in these issues. The goal: provide an accessible roadmap for how we get out of this fossil fuel mess to alleviate climate change pressures. We’ve spent years highlighting inequality and environmental degradation, and now seek to leverage that experience into a probing search for solutions. We will send reporters into the oil fields of L.A. County, to convey which neighboring communities suffer most from the status quo, while we simultaneously explore the most effective efforts to transition to a cleaner, greener future. Collectively, we want this project to act as something of a roadmap for Angelenos, to help them see that this sort of change is possible — and how it might happen. Capital & Main co-publishes with media around the country — including USA Today, La Opinión, Newsweek, Fortune, Fast Company, L.A. Taco, and dozens of others — so we would seek to use the story of Los Angeles’ transition to inspire other cities. L.A. has often been at the forefront of change in America, and this is an issue where the city can provide truly consequential leadership. If car-culture L.A. can transform, couldn’t virtually any city?

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Powering Los Angeles without fossil fuels can seem unrealistic if only because we don’t currently know exactly how it will happen. Partly, this is due to a lack of practical imagination, but more so to a lack of an organized vision that brings together the disparate efforts in a coherent narrative. This is what we intend to do during the year we focus on this project. As fires, pollution, droughts and increasingly violent weather around the state make clear, we are in the midst of a climate emergency. We intend to produce powerful content for widespread distribution that will connect the dots for Angelenos so they understand the problems we face, how their actions play into them, what forces are aggravating the situation, and where plausible solutions reside. As journalists, we cannot directly solve the problems and move beyond fossil fuels in L.A. in a generation, but we can ring the alarm bells and provide coherent and convincing plans to convince voters and policymakers.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

We have been investigating and writing about climate change for years, and recently expanded such coverage. We regularly compile metrics on the audiences we reach on our own site, via social media, and through the audiences of our (100-plus) co-publishing partners. Our reach has grown exponentially in recent years, and we expect that to continue as we establish new media partnerships with publications, radio/podcasts and TV specifically tailored to the relevant issues (the environment, social justice, racial equity, urban renewal, etc.). Another measure of our work involves fundraising. At our recent annual Exposés fundraiser, we honored Oscar-winning Director Adam McKay for his climate-focused film, Don’t Look Up, and his generous support of our climate journalism. Mr. McKay brings attention and financial support to Capital & Main, partly by acting as a megaphone for our climate-related work. This would be beneficial to a new expanded initiative to address climate impacts in L.A.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 100,000

Indirect Impact: 1,000,000