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Blog

    California Frackin’

    06/10/2011

    West coast cool, steady electricity, clean beaches, and Jeeps cruising down Pacific Coast Highway ; is it all just California dreamin’? The potential for reliable energy in the Golden State along with clean beaches and palm trees exists, by allowing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas.  Environmentalists have given fracking terrible publicity, creating a hype that could lead residents in Santa Barbara County to kill their proverbial golden goose of energy; a terrible move in a state marked by high energy demands and all too frequent rolling blackouts. 

    California is a big time energy consumer, in part due to its car centric culture. The state is designed for cars; urban and suburban planning practically assumes one has a car. There is virtually no safe or convenient public transportation.  McDonald’s and the rise of fast food and drive-thrus originated in the Golden State, a testament to its love for automobiles.

    Californians burn through a vast quantity of energy, and specifically electricity, leading to too frequent rolling blackouts. The state is the tenth largest energy consumer on the planet, with electricity comprising the bulk (excepting the transportation industry which relies on petroleum and natural gas).  The hot climate means that many Californians work their air conditioners to the max, especially in August.  High AC usage combined with the fact that California is an extremely populous state and burns through electricity for lights, refrigerators, etc., has led to far too many rolling black outs for any Californian’s taste. Natural gas powers electricity and the already high prices will only get worse with increased fracking regulations. 

    Fracking for natural gas can be the energy salvation California needs, if environmentalists do not strangle the industry with excessive regulations. A new bill, which has passed the state Assembly and is heading to the Senate would result in some of the strictest fracking regulations in the country.  Extra regulations will simply increase the barrier for entry into the market, decrease incentive to try and enter the market for fracking services, limit production, and result in yet another jump in energy prices. 

    It is unfortunate that environmentalists are demonizing fracking, fanning a negative hype that has prompted the California legislature to craft a bill that would choke the industry. Tupper Hull, the spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association admits that he is “a little surprised that there’s this sudden interest and focus on a problem that to the best of our knowledge does not exist or has never been shown to exist;” he argues furthermore, that the record shows Western fracking operations to be unequivocally safe.  

    The far left has even less reason to complain about fracking in Santa Barbara. Operations are done “at greater depths farther way from the water tables and use less of the water” and propellant mixture overall than rigs elsewhere in the country.   

    Yet the bad hype continues to grow, despite a disturbing lack of conclusive evidence. In Baldwin Hills, a Los Angeles country neighborhood, residents have begun to blame tremors and shifts in their homes on fracking.  To pin seismic tremors on fracking because it is the trendy thing to blame, without any conclusive evidence, is ridiculous. California, and particularly Los Angeles, is notable for its frequent tremors and earth quakes. The state is home to the San Andreas Fault and sits atop two tectonic plates. 

    California needs a reliable supply of energy, yet a few residents want to indulge in the growing fracking hysteria. Californians cannot do both. Fracking for natural gas ranks as one of the safest and most productive means of providing energy. Why should we give up the golden goose of energy because a few extremists cry, without evidence, that it could possibly hurt the environment?