Huasna Valley and California’s war on oil and gas
August 27, 2012
OPINION By ALEX ALEXIEV
And so the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors has voted unanimously to not allow drilling for oil on a private property in the Huasna Valley. While it was a given that the three environmental extremists on the board would do so, the fact that the two ostensibly conservative supervisors joined them in this egregious decision is a testimony of how deep the political malaise in this county and state has spread.
To begin with, it seems not to have bothered the supervisors that what they did was deny the ranch owners the right to exercise their lawful property rights as owners of the minerals under their property. Whether this amounts to government “takings” per the 5th Amendment is for constitutional lawyers and the courts to decide, but this kind of thing is what they do in totalitarian countries, not in the land of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.
Second, and just as disconcerting, is the seeming hypocrisy of the supervisors in defending this clear-cut assault on property rights. Supervisor Teixeira, in whose district Huasna is, is reported saying that “an oil field is incompatible with the rural and isolated valley.” If an oil rig is incompatible with that remote location, where few would have ever seen it, Mr. Teixeira, what exactly is it compatible with – downtown San Luis Obispo?
The bottom line is that our distinguished supervisors, aided and abetted by a far left planning department and a bunch of not-in-my-backyard local zealots, knowingly trampled property rights and legitimate business pursuits at a time when the county desperately needs economic development and tax revenue.
Unfortunately, the decision is not a surprise. Rather it is part and parcel of a war on California’s huge oil and gas resources a cabal of Luddite environmentalists and their political stooges in Sacramento have waged for four decades and are winning to the huge detriment of the economy and the well-being of the state’s citizens.
Last year’s Fraser Institute “Global Petroleum Survey” found California the most hostile to drilling state in the United States and 91st worst in the world. The results are there for everyone to see. Since the war on oil and gas began in the aftermath of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, California has become increasingly dependent for its energy on imports. Thirty percent of our electricity, much of it coal-fired, is now imported, even as nearly half of our growing oil imports come from such pro-American paragons of democracy as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and Ecuador.
The impact of energy dependence, aggravated by high taxes, renewable handouts and asinine regulations, such as the global warming scam called AB32, on the state’s economy is staggering. California electricity rates are nearly 50 percent higher than those in the the rest of the country, making our industries uncompetitive.
According to a Milken Institute Survey, California businesses pay 23 percent more to operate than those in other states, resulting, in the past ten years alone, in the loss of 34 percent of our manufacturing base. Just go ask Apple, Intel and Google, the leaders of high-tech California, where they have been building factories lately. The answer is anywhere but California. And it is getting worse. Last year 254 companies left California for other states, 26 percent more than in 2010.
Ironically, all of this is taking place while the rest of the country is experiencing an energy revolution that will make America energy independent in just a few years thanks to shale gas and oil. We’ve already passed Russia to become the number one producer of natural gas in the world and will soon eclipse both Saudi Arabia and Russia in oil production, as well, on account of shale oil.
This game-changing revolution is already having a huge economic impact in the form of natural gas prices that are several times cheaper today than even five years ago. This and the shale oil bonanza in places like the Bakken play in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas, Haynesville in Louisiana etc. have resulted in an unprecedented economic boom in these and many other parts of the country, providing a graphic example of what American technological ingenuity and the free market can do if freed from Huasna-like obstructionism by government and special interests.
Alas, don’t hold your breath for the shale revolution to be welcomed to California any time soon, despite our huge unexploited resources. Few Californians know that our state sits on gigantic shale oil reserves in a geological formation called the Monterey Shale, which stretches from northern California to Orange County and includes San Luis Obispo county and adjacent offshore areas. The U.S. Energy Information Agency estimates that the Monterey Shale holds 64.4 percent of the total shale oil resources of the lower 48 states or 15.4 billion barrels.
Exploiting even part of this resource will easily balance our budget, usher in cheaper energy and give the economy a huge shot in the arm. But this requires economically rational leaders who, as Huasna shows, are in critically short supply in this, once upon a time, Golden State.
Alex Alexiev, a resident of Templeton, has over 30 years of experience in national security analysis at the Rand Corporation and various Washington D.C. think tanks. He writes for National Review and other publications and tweets on national security at twitter.com/alexieff. His most recent book, “The Wages of Extremism: Radical Islam’s Threat to the West and the Muslim World,” is available in pdf form.