February 5, 2013

BROWN VS. GREEN: The Clash of the Titans in California.

Massive shale oil reserves could give California one of the biggest oil booms on Earth, but the uber-powerful California green lobby is gearing up for the fight of its life.

The stakes of the battle could be huge, reports the New York Times. Hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs for Californians, versus environmental concerns about fracking, pipelines, and greenhouse gasses.

The Monterey Shale formation, stretching 1,750 square miles from southern to central California, constitutes two-thirds of the country’s total estimated shale oil reserves. That’s an estimated 15.4 billion barrels, or four times as much as the Bakken Shale reserves in North Dakota, whose exploitation can now be seen from space.

But the green lobby will prove a formidable opponent to the oil and gas companies jostling for a piece of this giant pie. It is already hard at work trying to keep California’s newly recoverable energy reserves in the ground: Two powerhouse lobbies are suing the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Conservation to prevent further exploration of the Monterey Shale and impose stricter regulations on fracking.

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?

To a near-total extent. And they feel no compunction at all.

UPDATE: Environmental benefits from California oil. “Restoring oil self-sufficiency would reduce the risk of spills from the tankers bringing in imports, while refilling existing infrastructure. And if the Monterey yields oil similar in quality to the light, sweet crude now being produced from the Bakken and Eagle Ford shales, it could actually cut both greenhouse gas emissions and local pollution by reducing the refining intensity required to turn the state’s current diet of heavier crudes into ultra-low sulfur gasoline and diesel fuel.” Don’t expect the Greens to care. Their opposition is more religious than rational.