What would ban on oil drilling, frack­ing mean for Cal­i­for­nia?

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY DAN SCHNUR

Note to read­ers: Each week through Novem­ber 2019, a se­lec­tion of our 101 Cal­i­for­nia In­flu­encers an­swers a ques­tion that is crit­i­cal to Cal­i­for­nia’s fu­ture. Top­ics in­clude ed­u­ca­tion, health­care, en­vi­ron­ment, hous­ing and eco­nomic growth.

Stay in the know: Go to www.fres­nobee.com/ in­flu­encers to sign up for the Cal­i­for­nia In­flu­encers news­let­ter – and tell us what you think.

If all goes ac­cord­ing to plan, in about 25 years Cal­i­for­nia will have elim­i­nated the use of fos­sil fu­els to meet its en­ergy needs. But our state is cur­rently one of the na­tion’s lead­ers in petroleum pro­duc­tion, last year ex­tract­ing more than 165 mil­lion bar­rels of oil from no fewer than 72,000 wells.

How does Cal­i­for­nia be­come car­bon-free if we keep drilling? And if we stop, what hap­pens to all the jobs – not to men­tion cars – that still rely on gaso­line?

“Turn­ing away from drilling and frack­ing could cer­tainly help us tran­si­tion to cleaner en­ergy sources that could be de­vel­oped lo­cally, with tremen­dous eco­nomic and job ben­e­fits… but it is all lost if the tran­si­tion is hasty,” said state Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), who called for ex­panded job train­ing and com­mu­nity im­pact pro­grams. “We have to do the home­work… and make sure the al­ter­na­tive we present is ac­tu­ally bet­ter for Cal­i­for­ni­ans.”

Sev­eral In­flu­encers warned of the dan­gers of mak­ing this shift too quickly, em­pha­siz­ing the po­ten­tial job loss and other neg­a­tive eco­nomic im­pacts.

“I see lit­er­ally zero ben­e­fit to ban­ning oil drilling and frack­ing in Cal­i­for­nia, un­less we are okay with driv­ing thou­sands of peo­ple into un­em­ploy­ment and in­creas­ing our re­liance on for­eign oil,” Stanis­laus County Su­per­vi­sor Kristin Olsen said. “We should con­tinue to pro­mote the growth of re­new­able en­ergy al­ter­na­tives, but that full tran­si­tion must take place over time – not forced pre­ma­turely by ban­ning jobs that cause both peo­ple and the strength of our econ­omy and na­tional se­cu­rity to suf­fer.”

Some of the state’s fore­most re­new­able en­ergy ex­perts out­lined steps to ease the tran­si­tion from fos­sil fu­els with­out creat­ing eco­nomic dis­rup­tion.

“Cal­i­for­nia should fo­cus on re­duc­ing de­mand for petroleum and nat­u­ral gas, deepen our in­vest­ments in en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, public tran­sit and non­mo­tor­ized mo­bil­ity, and sub­sti­tute re­new­able elec­tric­ity and re­new­able hy­dro­gen for gaso­line, diesel, and nat­u­ral gas across our econ­omy,” said V. John White, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency and Re­new­able Tech­nolo­gies. “Ex­panded in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ments and the de­ploy­ment of re­new­able fu­els and ad­vanced ve­hi­cles will stim­u­late bil­lions of dol­lars in eco­nomic in­vest­ment and thou­sands of new jobs.”

Danielle Os­born Mills, di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Wind En­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion of Cal­i­for­nia, fo­cused on the daunt­ing chal­lenges of re­duc­ing car­bon use in the state’s trans­porta­tion sec­tor.

“We need new in­fra­struc­ture to de­car­bonize – new trans­mis­sion to ac­cess re­new­able sources of en­ergy and new charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture to bring that re­new­able power to Cal­i­for­nia’s driv­ers,” Mills said. “(We can) es­tab­lish train­ing and ap­pren­tice­ship pro­grams in clean

en­ergy and cre­ate high­lyskilled, good-pay­ing jobs… that al­low us to mod­ern­ize our grid and elec­trify our build­ings and ve­hi­cles.”

Cal­i­for­nia So­lar and Stor­age As­so­ci­a­tion Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Ber­nadette Del Chiaro as­sessed other dis­ad­van­tages and ben­e­fits of a com­plete drilling ban.

“To the ex­tent that Cal­i­for­nia would still im­port fos­sil fu­els for the ma­jor­ity of its en­ergy sup­plies, the down­side would be the ex­port of these en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts to other states and coun­tries,” Del Chiaro said. “How­ever, by tak­ing such a de­ci­sive move… Cal­i­for­nia would send a clear sig­nal to in­vestors and con­sumers alike that the state was se­ri­ous about get­ting off of fos­sil fu­els and shift­ing to clean al­ter­na­tives.”

For­mer Los An­ge­les Times ed­i­tor Jim New­ton also high­lighted the sym­bolic value of a man­date.

“End­ing all drilling in Cal­i­for­nia would send a clear sig­nal that this state has turned the cor­ner on cli­mate change, that peo­ple here rec­og­nize re­liance on fos­sil fu­els needs to end soon,” said New­ton, now the ed­i­tor in chief of UCLA’s Blue­print mag­a­zine. “Yes, it would be more ges­ture than sub­stance, since the rest of the world isn’t there yet. But Cal­i­for­nia is com­mit­ted to lead­er­ship on this is­sue, and lead­ers are sup­posed to lead.”

Western Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent Dave Puglia pre­dicted that a drilling ban will not be nec­es­sary to achieve the state’s car­bon-free goals.

“Look­ing ahead, re­new­able en­ergy man­dates such as Cal­i­for­nia’s, along with mar­ket forces… make it rea­son­ably cer­tain that petroleum will steadily de­cline as a com­po­nent of our na­tional en­ergy port­fo­lio,” Puglia said. “The bet­ter course is to in­cen­tivize con­tin­u­ing in­vest­ment in tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tion to fur­ther re­duce the im­pacts of oil pro­duc­tion, even as petroleum fades over time.”

The most straight­for­ward anal­y­sis of the pros and cons of a ban came from Karen Skel­ton, pres­i­dent of Skel­ton Strate­gies in Sacra­mento.

“The down­sides of ban­ning oil drilling and frack­ing are im­me­di­ate and po­lit­i­cally painful… Take away these jobs, in­crease poverty,” Skel­ton said. “The up­side of a com­plete ban over time is sim­ple: pro­tect­ing mankind’s ex­is­tence on planet Earth.”

AL SEIB Los An­ge­les Times/TNS

A line of off-shore oil rigs in the Santa Bar­bara Chan­nel near the Fed­eral Eco­log­i­cal Pre­serve en route to the Chan­nel Is­lands Na­tional Ma­rine Sanc­tu­ary in March 2015. Cal­i­for­nia is cur­rently one of the na­tion’s lead­ers in petroleum pro­duc­tion.

Bureau of Land Man­age­ment Bak­ers­field Field Of­fice

Hy­draulic frac­tur­ing is cur­rently used on be­tween 10% to 20% of all oil and gas wells on public lands in Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia man­aged by the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment Bak­ers­field Field Of­fice. The BLM is in the process of re­view­ing the pro­posed en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of frack­ing on new oil and gas leases.

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