February 5th, 2013 at 5:25 pm
CA’s Brown Faces Big Test over Shale Oil Fracking
It’s an interesting time to follow California politics.
Last month, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown announced that, thanks to the voter-approved tax hikes from last November, the state looks poised reap budget surpluses for the first time in years.
But instead of using those projections as an excuse to restore funding for programs pared back by budget cuts, Brown is promising to set aside the money in a rainy day fund.
Moody’s and S&P rewarded Brown’s announcement by upgrading California’s credit rating.
Now Brown faces an even bigger test.
There’s an estimated 15.4 billion barrels of oil in California’s Monterey Shale formation, or four times as much as North Dakota’s Bakken Shale reserves. Another way to put it is that California is home to two-thirds of America’s projected shale oil reserves. Opening it up would be a game changer for the nation’s oil security and California’s economy.
But here’s the rub, according to Walter Russell Mead:
The intrigues in this drama are many. Does California’s Democratic Party come down on the side of low income Californians, who desperately need the jobs and state services new oil extraction will fund? Or does it come down on the side of a green lobby that is heavily backed by some of the wealthiest people in the state? To what extent does the wealthy coastal elite control the future of the inland poor in California? Can the GOP use the issue as a wedge to rebuild its credibility in a state it once dominated? Will black gold bail out big blue California?
Bring lots of popcorn. This is going to be a terrific show.
January 16th, 2013 at 8:12 pm
Calif. Has $1 Trillion in Oil, But Would It Stop Govt. Spending?
Mark Mills writing in The Wall Street Journal says that projections about California’s latent shale oil reserves could be the silver bullet for the state’s fiscal woes:
The overall economic benefits of opening up the Monterey shale field could reach $1 trillion. One can only imagine the impact on California’s education system, social programs, infrastructure, and even energy-tech R&D. Moreover, with that kind of revenue, Sacramento tax collections could wipe out debt and deficits.
But is it really plausible that California’s big-spending political class would use the $1 trillion windfall to pay off the state’s debts and seed a rainy day fund? Call me cynical, but it seems way more likely that state spending would increase above and beyond whatever windfall comes from oil drilling.
That said, I’d love for Sacramento to prove me wrong. Let the fracking begin!
November 13th, 2012 at 7:34 pm
Obama Shuts Down More Energy Development Out West
It was just a few weeks ago that President Obama was on the debate stage telling that nation that Mitt Romney had unfairly tarred his administration as anti-energy development:
We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years … Now, I want to build on that. And that means, yes, we still continue to open up new areas for drilling.
As I noted at the time, Obama’s defense of his record was essentially dishonest. Increased oil production was due almost entirely to a combination of private-sector development and federal efforts initiated by the Bush Administration. As for his pledge to open up new drilling sites? Well, judge for yourself. From The Hill:
The Interior Department on Friday issued a final plan to close 1.6 million acres of federal land in the West originally slated for oil shale development.
The proposed plan would fence off a majority of the initial blueprint laid out in the final days of the George W. Bush administration. It faces a 30-day protest period and a 60-day process to ensure it is consistent with local and state policies. After that, the department would render a decision for implementation.
Interior’s Bureau of Land Management cited environmental concerns for the proposed changes. Among other things, it excised lands with “wilderness characteristics” and areas that conflicted with sage grouse habitats.
The sage grouse, it should be noted, is not endangered, though it is on the waiting list to earn that classification. In 2010, the Fish and Wildlife Service described the bird’s status as, “numerous relatively small populations existing in a patchy mosaic of increasingly fragmented habitat.” Count me skeptical that a population in such shape requires 1.6 million acres (2,500 square miles) to survive.