Key To Jobs And Energy Independence Right Under Our Feet
Although Sacramento politicians claim California’s economy is undergoing a recovery, in Madera County as in many Central Valley communities, unemployment remains high. However, advances in proven oil and gas technology could empower local residents with good jobs and provide local governments with new sources of revenue for services such as public safety and education.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a technology giving us the ability to safely unlock energy deposits trapped between rocks, has been in use since 1949. In recent decades, fracking has helped spur economic booms in North Dakota, Texas and Pennsylvania, but despite one of America’s largest shale reserves, California has largely sat on the sidelines.
On a nationwide basis, fracking has led to the creation of 2.7 million new jobs, mostly with good wages, according to Harvard economist Michael Porter. Porter also estimates reduced energy costs resulting from fracking save the average American family $800 annually.
Furthermore, America’s energy boom is increasing our country’s energy security by making us less dependent on unfriendly or unstable nations. Recently released data show in 2014 the United Statesdisplaced Russia as the world’s top oil and natural gas producer.
Here in California, however, our oil and gas production only meets one third of our energy needs, requiring us to import two thirds of the oil and gas we use for fuel. Instead of sending our dollars away and letting jobs be created somewhere else, it’s time for us to develop the resources we have right under our feet and put Californians back to work.
A 2013 California State University Fresno study found developing the Monterey Shale energy deposit, located right here in the Central Valley, could create up to 195,000 new high paying jobs, generate as much as $22 billion in personal income gains, and provide up to $6.7 billion in new revenue for state and local governments.
Unfortunately, some people choose to ignore the science on fracking and instead are trying to spread misinformation and create hysteria. Chief among these people are multi-millionaire Hollywood celebrities who lack any background in science and, unlike the rest of us, do not need to worry about access to jobs or the price of gas and utilities.
And while prominent green organizations like the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council oppose the energy revolution that has unlocked vast new quantities of natural gas, as recently as ten years ago these groups advocated for natural gas as a cleaner alternative to coal. What could be behind their change of heart? According to one recent investigation, millions of dollars in Russian oil money may be flowing to anti-fracking groups in an effort by Russia to regain its energy dominance.
In fact, fracking’s safety has been reaffirmed in study after study including a comprehensive reviewreleased this year by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Examining five years of data, the EPA found fracking had no “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water.”
Some have also objected to fracking on the basis of the state’s current water shortage, but these claims are also misleading. The Washington Post called out fracking opponents for this deceptive argument noting the amount of water used by fracking amounts to just 0.00062% of the state’s annual freshwater withdrawals. For comparison, marijuana cultivation, an activity which actually does use a lot of water, uses 200 times more water than fracking.
Here in Madera County, unemployment is currently 10.4%, nearly twice the state’s official rate, and does not even account for those who have simply given up looking for work. Nearly a quarter of our residents fall below the poverty level. Many of our residents have to drive many miles for work and commerce, and a good chunk of these are defined as the working poor, who struggle to fill their tanks each week under California’s onerous fuel prices.
With fracking, we can do something about this state of affairs. It would create hundreds of good jobs in Madera County, and thousands statewide. It would also increase our energy independence, and help guarantee affordable fuel prices for some of the state’s poorest residents. All safely with the highest work standards in the world. Supporting fracking is just common sense.
Rick Farinelli is Supervisor for Madera County’s 3rd District