Disputed oil technology is safe - and vital

by Jack Stewart
June 16, 2012
Other states are climbing out of the recession and creating high-wage manufacturing jobs by encouraging production of a natural resource that's essential to economic growth and energy security domestic oil and gas.

But here in California special interest groups are determined not just to stop accessing new resources, but to further reduce already declining production.

The latest battlefield in the war on abundant, affordable energy and the jobs and economic benefits that go with it is the technology known as hydraulic fracturing. An organization dedicated to eliminating fossil fuels recently raised sensational claims with the goal of outlawing this safe and effective technique. Its misguided crusade will raise energy costs, kill jobs and make us more dependent on imported oil.

Hydraulic fracturing has been used in California for decades, without a single incident of risk or damage to water supplies, the environment or public health.

Far from being clandestine, hydraulic fracturing is a transparent and highly regulated activity in California, and is becoming even more so. Existing law requires notification of the extent, timing and location of oil extraction.

Producers are cooperatively working with the Legislature on ways to further strengthen the already strict regulatory framework governing hydraulic fracturing here.

In short, Californians have nothing to fear from hydraulic fracturing. But they do have very much to fear if special interests succeed in further hamstringing the ability of California to produce its own energy.

Energy and prosperity are inextricably linked. Affordable energy means new businesses are able to start up and existing businesses are able to grow. This leads to job retention and growth, and the higher tax revenues that allow government to provide the essential services Californians need. Affordable energy and the jobs it creates and protects also mean more disposable income for consumers, which in turn creates more jobs and more revenues.

States that have taken advantage of hydraulic fracturing technology to pursue safe, effective oil and gas production have enjoyed strong economic and manufacturing jobs growth, with no verified cases of environmental harm. They also have reduced their dependence on imported oil.
The Washington Post recently reported that imports of liquid fuels in the United States declined from 60 percent in 2005 to 45 percent last year, and that "a major driver has been the use of hydraulic fracturing."

One need only compare the official attitude encouraging oil production in North Dakota to the institutionalized opposition to it in California to gauge the impact on energy supplies, jobs and economic activity.

It's been reported that in North Dakota oil and gas sector workers earn an average of more than $90,000 a year, a wage base that's pushed up incomes in non-oil sectors as well. The state has enjoyed an estimated $839 million in revenues from the industry in 2011, with $2 billion more expected to be generated over the next two years. At a time other states have had to dramatically cut education and other public services, North Dakota has been able to increase such spending by 12 percent over the same time period. The state's unemployment rate dropped to 3 percent in April.

By contrast, California's dependence on foreign oil keeps growing. In 1982, we produced 61 percent of the oil we need right here at home. Today we produce just 38 percent, according to the state's Energy Commission. We have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, about 11 percent. We have a multibillion-dollar budget deficit and are facing drastic reductions in funding for education, health care and social services. We have lost 625,000 manufacturing jobs in just the last 10 years and have attracted only 1.9 percent of U.S. investment in manufacturing facilities during that same period.

Despite the undocumented and politically motivated campaign to the contrary, hydraulic fracturing has a long and well-established record of safety in California, and has proven to be a much-needed economic engine in other states.

The last thing we need is to further curtail the energy production that is vital to the economic health of California and its residents. We would do well to take advantage of safe energy-creating technologies such as hydraulic fracturing to revive our manufacturing base, create jobs, generate tax revenues and reduce our dependence on imported oil.

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