I live in California, a state where our government is practically bankrupt, businesses are fleeing, and 1.6 million citizens are unemployed. To say the least, our state needs an economic breakthrough.
Fortunately, we are on the verge of one. The state that gave birth to Silicon Valley has the opportunity to become Energy Valley, thanks to a miraculous technology that turns stone into oil.
That technology is called shale oil technology. Governor Brown calls it “an opportunity we can’t miss” because it can single-handedly turn our economy around.
Our state’s greatness has long been tied to oil. For the last 100 years, Californians have been masters at the art of finding crude oil and transforming it into everything from gasoline and jet fuel to artificial hearts and bulletproof vests. Southern California has produced more oil per acre than any place in the world—including Saudi Arabia.
In the 1960s, when our oil production was at its height, the California economy was the envy of the nation. While production now is half what it once was, the state’s well-being still benefits greatly from oil, whether in Bakersfield, Long Beach, or even Beverly Hills, where oil pumps hidden inside large buildings create prosperity by the barrel.
Why has oil production halved? The same reason that our economy has become a nightmare—political policies that make it practically impossible to do business in California. When I asked Dr. Andrew Kleit, professor of Energy and Environmental Economics at Penn State University, about California’s woes on a recent podcast, he responded, “California has very challenging environmental regulations . . . you simply can’t build new things.”
Thus, we find ourselves in desperate but well-deserved straits. If it weren’t for our weather, who knows how many more productive businesses would have fled?
California urgently needs what it has lost all right to ask for: some breakthrough industry to set up shop here and somehow create trillions in wealth and millions of jobs.
And yet the oil industry is proposing to do exactly that—through revolutionary shale oil technology.
For decades, geologists have known that thousands of feet below California oil fields lay perhaps the biggest prize of all—a 1,750 square mile layer of oil-based shale rock called the Monterey Shale. Unfortunately, there was no technology that could get the oil out of that rock.
But now there is, thanks to state-of-the-art shale oil technology, including the technology known as “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing). Fracking technology uses water and sand to fracture shale rock, creating pores that oil can flow through. It has been used (safely) for 30 years in California on conventional oil formations. Now, it is being applied to shale around the country, with incredible results. In North Dakota, the once unknown Bakken shale formation has become the foundation of America’s greatest economic boom today, which drove the state’s unemployment rate down to 3.2% (California’s is 8.6%).
California may be able to do even better. The Monterey Shale is four times larger than the Bakken. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that it contains 15 billion barrels of recoverable oil, or 630 billion gallons. That’s an almost unimaginable amount of oil for getting to work, for family vacations, for life-saving medical devices. And, according to a new USC study, up to 2.8 million jobs will be created if we seize this opportunity.
Those of us who have jobs can easily forget what a new, well-paying job means to a family. It means saving for college instead of falling deeper into debt. It means enjoying a comfortable life, not anxiously living on the edge. It means optimism, not despair.
Unfortunately, our fellow citizens may be deprived of this opportunity thanks to widespread miseducation about shale oil technology—particularly the lie that “fracking” threatens us with poisoned water. Numerous studies, including three by President Obama’s EPA, have confirmed what a basic study of fracking makes obvious; because fracking occurs thousands of feet away from the groundwater, it simply cannot contaminate it.
What California desperately needs right now is for citizens and politicians to embrace shale oil technology and recognize its fundamental safety. Instead, the leading policy proposal on shale, called SB4, would place so many unscientific and unnecessary restrictions so as to make affordable shale oil practically impossible.
Worse, the leading alternative to SB4 is a call to ban shale oil completely. Last week, a group of environmentalists called on Governor Brown “to impose an immediate moratorium on fracking in California”—and got massive publicity and praise, even though the letter contained not one single fact. In the past month, environmentalists have also started blindly demonizing another shale oil technology “acidizing,” an amazing practice that safely dissolves rock to get the oil out of it.
This kind of anti-industry scaremongering is what has held California back. Fortunately, Californians are starting to fight back—including some celebrities.
Adam Carolla, host of the world’s most popular podcast, says “we’ve got to start fracking” and complains that “big business is considered the devil here in California. We drive them out and we replace them with more federal jobs and more unions, and that’s why we’re bankrupt.”
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change course. When we look 10 or 20 years down the road, will we be the state that embraced technology and brought prosperity to all, or the state that rejected technology and deprived millions of our fellow citizens the opportunity for a better life? It’s time for Californians, including our celebrities, to get behind shale oil technology. It’s time for the California Stone Rush.