When it comes to oil regulation, California’s rules are the toughest in the nation. One would think that these stringent protections, adopted last year by the Legislature and governor under Senate Bill 4, would be a cause for celebration among the environmental community.
But instead of claiming victory, extremists are pushing for energy bans that would make our state more dependent on costly imported oil.
Bans against oil extraction techniques such as hydraulic fracturing would force California to rely more on energy from other states or foreign countries. California currently uses all the oil produced in our state, but this only covers 37 percent of our total need. The remaining 63 percent is imported from other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Iraq.
Further restricting the amount of oil produced within the Golden State would increase our reliance on outside sources, hurting our energy independence and potentially penalizing California consumers with higher prices at the pump.
More oil imports also mean fewer domestic jobs. Oil production in California is a source of thousands of small-business jobs – truck drivers and service companies, accountants and gas stations. Arbitrary bans on proven technology, such as hydraulic fracturing, only add to the uncertainty and pain felt on Main Street and will send more small-business jobs to other states and countries.
In National Federation of Independent Business surveys, small-business owners rank energy costs as a major concern. In fact, 38 percent of those surveyed said that their top energy cost is operating vehicles. California’s struggling small businesses, as well as the consumers who patronize these businesses, simply cannot afford higher gas prices.
Nor can California afford to lose jobs to other states, such as North Dakota, that have embraced domestic energy booms. North Dakota has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.7 percent. In comparison, California’s is 7.4 percent – higher than the national average. Recently, North Dakota even started a marketing campaign to lure workers to fill more than 20,000 jobs that cross a wide variety of skill levels and often pay well. With more than 1.4 million Californians out of work, it would be nice to have North Dakota’s problem of having more jobs than workers to fill them.
In addition, enhanced domestic oil production will create jobs beyond the energy sector. A greater supply of domestic energy will help bring down costs, which will allow businesses to expand in industries across the board.
With the economic benefits balanced with environmental protection, it’s hard to imagine why special interests want to ban hydraulic fracturing. They’re simply not telling the whole story. Attempts by extremists to demonize hydraulic fracturing are a ploy to end all oil production in the state.
California has the potential to responsibly use its natural resources to achieve energy independence. With more jobs, additional tax revenue and strong environmental protections, the only thing we have to lose is dependence on other states and countries to meet our state’s energy needs.
John Kabateck is executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business, California.