Benefits of Arroyo Grande oil wells outweigh impacts

May 9, 2012

Drilling site in hills behind Mankin's Ranch.


Last weekend, Japan shut down the last of its 50 nuclear power plants that have provided power to the island nation since 1966.  As a result, they will be at the mercy of energy imports from other countries.

The United States, on the other hand, is the master of its own destiny when it comes to its energy future. New technology and discoveries have vastly increased our domestic reserves of both oil and natural gas. But we have to have the courage and tenacity to harness these domestic sources of energy if we want to avoid the crippling dependence Japan and many other energy poor countries face.

Many parts of the country have embraced this growing energy independence. North Dakota’s oil production has tripled since 2007 and it surpassed California this year as the third largest oil-producing state.

North Dakota now has recoverable reserves of over 24 billion barrels. Coupled with increases in other oil-producing states, this has resulted in the United States importing just 45 percent of the liquid fuels it used, down from a record high of 60 percent in 2005. This has resulted in a 20 percent decrease of imports from OPEC countries, not to mention thousands of new jobs, billions in new tax revenues, and a shrinking trade deficit.

California, on the other hand, has not kept pace with our fellow oil-producing states. Oil production has been on a steady decline in California for two decades. Is that a result of our state running out of reserves to produce? Hardly. The Energy Information Administration estimates that California’s Monterey Shale may possess five times the oil as North Dakota’s Bakken Shale.  Instead, much of the problem is man-made.

San Luis Obispo County Planning Commissioners recently rejected a state of the art oil production project by Excelaron in the rural hills of the Huasna Field. This is a historic oil producing location that up until very recently had oil production equipment on site.

Excelaron has worked with county staff and residents to identify and minimize environmental issues.  In fact, the environmental impact report of the project found that the Excelaron project has less than half the impacts as two solar projects in the county. If a project can’t be approved in such a compatible location, where can it be approved?

Given that California’s crude is refined into gasoline, diesel, plastics, and asphalt and only .002 percent of our vehicle fleet is electric, wind and solar do not provide an alternative to domestically produced oil today. Only imports from foreign countries, many in unstable regions, can make up for the production lost when projects like Excelaron’s are rejected. We should harness our energy future and begin by giving the Excelaron project another look.

Rock Zierman is the CEO of  the California Independent Petroleum Association.



  1. vp says:

    The resident’s of Hausna must all ride bicycles to town, that would explain why they don’t need oil. I have to laugh when I see long lines of SUV’s at In and Out Burger getting their calorie injections without having to leave their air conditioned gas guzzling cocoons. God forbid we drill for oil in our backyard, lets just spend trillions on a bloated military to “defend” the Mideast oil fields. Where do people think gas comes from? I live less then a mile from the Price Canyon oil field, that has operated for over one hundred years, and it hasn’t killed my house value or destroyed Pismo Beach’s water. So we can’t have nuclear, wind, coal, gas, oil or solar farms in our county because our area is just too pristine! That energy stuff should come from somewhere I don’t live. NIMBY’s just kill me.

    (19) 51 Total Votes - 35 up - 16 down
    • R.Hodin says:

      The wells were there when you moved in. Big difference.

      (-2) 14 Total Votes - 6 up - 8 down
      • vp says:

        If you believe in global warming, as I do and live 13 miles outside of town and have to haul all your propane, groceries, horse feed etc. out to your mini-ranch please don’t tell me you are a concerned environmentalist. The ones that are really destroying Huasna Valley are not the oil companies, it’s the people trying to get away from it all. This is simple NIMBYism.

        (6) 16 Total Votes - 11 up - 5 down
        • R.Hodin says:

          I won’t buy your absolutist argument. No one can live a life perfectly aligned with their ideals, unless you have no ideals and don’t believe in a Creator, etc.

          That’s why they’re called “ideals” — they are unattainable. That’s also why we want to believe in a Creator — because the Creator represents an ideal, perfection without fault, perfect knowledge, perfect action.

          Meanwhile, down here on the planet, we make choices guided by many factors, and ideals are only one of those factors. We shouldn’t judge each other too harshly if our lives appear in conflict with perfect ideals.

          The reason we have global warming is because we have let the carbon industry dictate our future and the pace of our economy. This is a tragedy, which, I am sure, we will look back on as the epitome of folly. Advancements in the development of radical new energy sources has been held hostage by the carbon industry. There is abundant evidence of the industry’s efforts to sequester technology and prevent alternatives to fossil fuels from being developed. The fossil fuel industry is not an innocent or benevolent provider of convenient energy, they are oligarchs opposed to energy independence. It is a riot to hear an industry hack like Zierman talk about energy independence. Total fallacy!

          (0) 14 Total Votes - 7 up - 7 down
        • blondehare says:

          Now I just received an email.. about Bakersfield needing help.. Dear Center for Biological Diversity Supporter,

          Please join Center staff in Bakersfield to tell the state: Ban fracking now.

          Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a dangerous oil and natural gas extraction technique associated with more than 1,000 documented cases of water contamination across the country. With an estimated 15 billion barrels of frackable oil in California’s Monterey Shale, we are on the cusp of a fracking boom that threatens to pollute our air and water and harm our state’s wildlife and climate. Yet state officials don’t currently monitor fracking or even know where this dangerous practice is taking place
          The agency overseeing oil and gas extraction is holding a workshop to gather public input on fracking next Wednesday, March 13, in Bakersfield. You can attend this workshop to learn more about the state officials’ plans to address fracking, and to tell Governor Brown and the state’s Department of Conservation to ban fracking in California.

          I am so glad this was stopped..what a mess this would have been in AG..Google and look at what they have done to people’s lives. Their homes..

          (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. R.Hodin says:

    Zierman: “In fact, the environmental impact report of the project found that the Excelaron project has less than half the impacts as two solar projects in the county.”

    Hmmm, the Excelaron project claims to be a 2-acre project, yet produces one-half the impacts of the 6096 acre [4,100 ac (Topaz) PLUS 1,996 ac (SUNPower)] combined solar projects.

    That makes the Excelaron project one thousand, five hundred and twenty four TIMES the environment impact per acre as the combined Carrisa solar projects.

    The author would be better off arguing against the plastic bag ban.

    (4) 36 Total Votes - 20 up - 16 down
  3. R.Hodin says:

    China is “at the mercy of energy imports” and it hasn’t slowed their economy down by much, if any.

    So much for the “dependency” theory.

    (5) 27 Total Votes - 16 up - 11 down
  4. Slowerfaster says:

    What this shill Zierman declines to say, is that conventional drilling and recovery would not be profitable. Companies would not do it, the “old-fashioned way” , or it would have been a done deal years ago.

    The only way Huasna Valley oil can be done is with FRACKING. Fracking uses massive amounts of scarce water …water that then is polluted and unusable for any other purpose.
    Fracking also has been implicated in unprecedented earthquakes in places where earthquakes had been practically unknown , and with greater intensity. Places such as Shawnee, Oklahoma.
    Imagine now, the multiple faults that cross the Huasna Valley or that are nearby. Just imagine.

    (-1) 41 Total Votes - 20 up - 21 down
  5. MrBubble says:

    Even before one checks up on the facts, as they are presented in this opinion piece, it would seem that a political action committee (PAC) might have the vested interests of a group in mind. And unless you have given money to this PAC or stand to benefit from its actions, the group probably doesn’t include you. Too cynical?

    As for the facts and ideas expressed, such as conflating recoverable reserves with actual productive capacity, the “thousands of jobs” that are just around the corner, the “state of the art facility” (like Deepwater Horizon?), and thinking that you can have a shrinking trade deficit AND energy independence seem, to this reader, 1) not to be a well-thought out plan and 2) utterly devoid of evidence. It’s clearly a piece by a paid oil shill, but let’s not be so transparent, and at least put a few citations so that it doesn’t take readers 30 minutes out of their days to prove to themselves that many of the facts are demonstrably false.

    (4) 26 Total Votes - 15 up - 11 down
  6. fairminded says:

    It is clear that Mr. Zierman and his ilks do not care about anything but making more money. If there was money in it, he would sell his grandmother to the rendering plant. As a 4-1 majority of the Planning Commissioners recognized, Huasna Valley is no place for the messy, noisy, ugly, dangerous industrial operation proposed by Excellaron. The near unanimous opposition to this project by the Planning Commissioner clearly shows that this is not a democratic/republican issue. While it may be appropriate to put oil wells in some locations, Huasna Valley, with its bucolic setting, pristine environment, remote location and narrow winding roads is not one of them. I doubt Mr. Zierman and other Excellaron promoters would want to live anywhere near the oil wells they think are ok for the rest of us.

    (12) 38 Total Votes - 25 up - 13 down
    • racket says:

      Sounds like a NIMBY response to me.

      OTOH, I believe the prior Huasna oil ops were there long prior to the nimbys.

      In the final estimation, I agree with it. I don’t want to live in a “Taft-like” area.

      (3) 21 Total Votes - 12 up - 9 down
  7. Tay says:

    There are whole cities in the mid-west that are almost completely energy independant from the rest of the world. Their sewage is turned into electricity, they create their own petroleum from corn or beats, their water is recycled and reused. This was the lesson of our grand parents and great grandparents tried to teach us. Yet every generaation since has become more self absored and greedier than the last. I meen as a whole donmt begin

    (-2) 18 Total Votes - 8 up - 10 down
    • racket says:

      I’d be interested in hearing more about these Midwest cities.

      (10) 14 Total Votes - 12 up - 2 down
      • Robert1 says:

        They are right there in la-la land where all the nimbys and greenies live.

        (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      Can you name some cities? I Googled cities that use sewage for electricity. Orlando has a pilot program but no results yet. New York is looking into large scale but right now only produces enough to supply 20% power to 14 sewage treatment plants. I, as I assume others, would be interest in reading about these cities you mentioned.

      (10) 16 Total Votes - 13 up - 3 down
  8. WiseGuy says:

    Mr. Zierman’s article conveniently neglects to mention the massive amounts of toxic chemicals that are injected into the land, and often the water supply, during oil drilling operations,. At this very moment there are millions of gallons of oil industry toxic chemicals polluting the water table in the Santa Maria and Guadalupe areas as a result of oil drilling operations in the Guadalupe Dunes.

    And you know what, by LAW, the oil industry does not have to reveal what kinds of toxins it injects into the ground. But they are among the worst.

    (1) 55 Total Votes - 28 up - 27 down
    • Robert1 says:

      All opinion and no facts, there are many ways to frack, not all use chemicals or water.

      (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down

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