In a recent Bee opinion article, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Fremont, and Annie Leonard of Greenpeace USA recited the anti-fossil fuel mantra in goading Gov. Gavin Newsom to “break the addiction” to oil and gas by effectively banning production in our state through legislation and extreme regulatory policies.
They give faint praise to the governor’s reasonable environmental agenda but declare it just isn’t going to happen fast enough, even though California already leads the nation in major, common-sense programs designed to stem greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring continued economic well-being.
The heated rhetoric of anti-oil activists belies the fact that the vast majority of the state’s 40 million people depend directly or indirectly upon 26 million reliable, economical, and increasingly clean fuel-efficient vehicles with internal combustion engines that need gasoline and diesel to operate.
Their cities and counties also rely on billions of dollars in fuel tax revenues to provide infrastructure, public safety and other essential services. In Coalinga, the public funds generated by oil production help us pave, improve and repair local streets; pay for libraries, parks and other important community facilities; keep our firefighters and policemen on the job protecting the community and many other uses. Losing this important source of revenue to short-sighted public policy making would be devastating to our city and Fresno County, as well as other Central Valley and statewide oil-producing areas.
In the California that Khanna and Leonard unrealistically demand, oil production would shut down completely, forcing all of us into less reliable, shorter-range electric cars that most hardworking people simply can’t afford. The impact of this kind of misguided social engineering would fall first and hardest on millions of economically struggling families whose fuel-powered vehicles are essential to their employment, grocery shopping, school, medical care, personal recreation and other activities. Many disadvantaged people already live day-to-day on limited incomes and would be left behind by drastic changes.
An oil production ban would have an almost incalculable impact on the state’s vital industry and commerce, particularly on thriving sectors like agriculture, shipping, manufacturing, technology and tourism. Oil production also supports nearly 370,000 high-wage blue-collar California jobs that a ban would erase. The economic ripple effect could be catastrophic, especially in the Central Valley where people generally make less money and must drive farther to jobs in a region with some of the longest commute times in the nation.
The fact is that fossil fuel is and will be essential to the well-being of Coalinga and residents of the entire state for the foreseeable future, even as we make the long-term transition to 100 percent renewable energy supplies at some point in the future. We consume 2 million barrels of oil every day — 730 million barrels a year. About 30% is produced right here in California, where the oil and gas production and refining industry operates within the world’s toughest environmental protections, safety and health regulations. Fully 70% of the oil we use must be imported by ship, rail and truck from other states and nations that may not have the same level of health, environmental and safety regulations as California. Eliminating our own production would only increase the need for imported oil from these other sources, increasing costs, adding to the risks of oil transport and possibly aggravating problems in other nations and states with lesser environmental protections.
Extreme actions like the oil production ban promoted by Khanna, Leonard and so-called “Keep It In The Ground” activists would do much more harm than good to millions of Californians who depend on reliable fuel supplies to live their daily lives. This approach must be rejected. Instead, we must continue making progress toward an even cleaner environment in our communities while safeguarding the economy. A sound, successful energy future requires rational policies. Above all, we must continue talking to each other, not yelling or casting blame. I’m encouraged that Gov. Newsom appears to be taking a more pragmatic, practical approach that makes the most sense.