Left Coast Luddites battle against free enterprise
October 29, 2014
OPINION By ALEX ALEXIEV
It has come to pass that Santa Barbara County has put on the ballot a ‘Measure P’ that, if voted in, would essentially do away with the oil and gas industry in that county.
This at a time when America is becoming the envy of the world as the largest producer of oil and gas thanks to the shale revolution and the country with the cheapest energy among industrial nations, giving it an unbeatable comparative advantage. A revolution that, in turn, has triggered a remarkable phenomenon known as ‘re-shoring’ bringing back to America dozens of manufacturing plants and tens of thousands of previously off shored jobs.
What Santa Barbara County does or does not do is, of course, the business of its voters, but there is no escaping the fact that this is yet another proof that the county like the once Golden State is marching bravely over the economic cliff. As in all similar paradigm-changing political efforts, the true objective of this measure is carefully camouflaged behind high-sounding if fraudulent calls for clean water and air by prohibiting “high intensity petroleum operations,” such as hydro-fracturing (fracking) and steam injection.
Yet, even a perfunctory look at the text of the measure and the list of “water guardians,” as proponents of the measure call themselves, reveals a dyed-in-the-wool, leftist motley crew of democrat apparatchiks, ex-comrades, green fruitcakes and assorted nuts of many colors. Absent among them for the most part are labor unions, half a dozen of which fill the ranks of the opposition alongside firefighters, cops and chambers of commerce.
This last point may be the real answer as to why the “guardians of water” are trying to outlaw a legitimate and promising industry. It is an act of desperation, for the Left sees its fondest dream of defeating capitalism through the false promise of green paradise blown away by the economic rationality of the shale revolution. And this is the case even in a state with a governor called Moonbeam, where oil production is now less than half of what it was 30 years ago, where electricity costs 50 percent more than the United States average and where oil imports from the likes of Saudi Arabia and Ecuador are up 50 percent even as they have gone down 30 percent in the rest of the country.
In what may be the coup-de-grace for Measure P, in late August, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management released an extensive study of the effects of fracking and other techniques targeted by Measure P, by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST). It found “no instances of harm,” as have numerous other studies of the over 1 million cases of fracking in the country to date. This, according to the BLM, clears the way to resuming oil and gas leasing of public land in California next year.
What this could mean for California, which reportedly has the greatest shale resources in the nation, becomes clear from a quick comparison with Texas where the shale revolution is in full swing. In 2013, the oil and gas industry there added 23,000 jobs paying an average of $103,000 per year and paid 13.6 billion to the state in taxes.
Elsewhere, the news for the red-green utopians is even less sanguine. It was but a few years ago when President Obama urged Americans to follow the lead of countries like Germany and Spain in renewable energy or risk falling hopelessly behind. Today the great European experiment in green energy requiring heavy government subsidies looks more and more like an unmitigated disaster. In Germany, electric energy now costs three times more than in America and 800,000 “energy-poor” households had their electricity turned off for non-payment. The government is now drastically cutting down the renewable subsidies and encouraging the building of coal-fired stations. The road to green heaven there, it now seems, is paved with….lignite.
In Spain, the government promise to solar companies of 15 percent to 20 percent profits guaranteed for 20 years was rescinded retroactively, leading to a collapse in the sector with investment shrinking by 90 percent and employment falling from 60,000 to 5,000 virtually overnight. Similar cuts are now being reported in Italy, Britain, Czech Republic etc. as Europe tries to lick the self-inflicted wounds of its renewable folly. Last but most, the EU powers that be are finally acknowledging the problem. According to competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, all subsidies must be replaced by ‘market mechanisms’ by 2017.
Back in California, the Luddites of Santa Barbara are facing stiff opposition to their radical Measure P agenda and the long-entrenched democratic congresswoman and anti-fossil fuel zealot, Lois Capps, for the first time faces a tough reelection challenge by conservative republican Chris Michum. Hard to believe as it is, it appears that common sense and economic rationality might sooner or later triumph even in the People’s Republic of California.
Alex Alexiev, a resident of the California’s Central Coast, is a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC) in Washington D.C.