Newsom’s Guide to Ban Fracking

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks to the media in Los Angeles on April 1.


patrick t. Fallon / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

President Biden took his climate advice from California, so Governor Gavin Newsom’s order to ban fracking late last week is sure to cause tremors across state lines.

“The climate crisis is real and we continue to see the signs every day,” Newsom said. “As we strive to quickly decarbonise our transportation sector and create a healthier future for our children, I made it clear that I don’t see fracking as a role in that future, and I also believe that California needs to go beyond oil. ”

Legislation that would have banned hydraulic fracking and restricted most oil production in the state’s Central Valley died earlier this month in the Senate due to opposition from moderate Democrats and unions. Left groups then turned Mr. Newsom on. With a recall election now far from safe, the governor does not want to give anyone on the left a reason to challenge him.

As recently as last fall, the governor claimed that he could not ban fracking by Fiat. “We just don’t have that authority,” he said. He was right. An immediate ban on fracking would also violate the constitution’s revenue clause and require the state to compensate drills and landowners.

Instead, Mr Newsom is instructing the state’s Department of Nature Conservation to initiate a regulation to end new fracking permits by 2024. In the meantime, Mr. Newsom says the department will “operationalize its updated mandate to protect public health and the environment” – that is, tighten regulations and allow slow rolling.

Fracking accounts for 2% to 20% of government oil production, according to estimates that vary in part depending on how the process is defined. Horizontal drilling combined with high pressure fluid injection has helped independent producers extract more oil from older and less productive fields, saving thousands of high paying jobs.

The oil and gas industry employs approximately 150,000 people in the state who earn an average of $ 80,500 a year. Mr Newsom essentially told them on Friday to prepare for a career move by phasing out all oil production by 2045. It might not take that long on the state’s climate policy path.

California was once one of the largest oil producers in the country, but production has declined about 60% since the mid-1980s as regulatory costs and cumbersome permits delayed investment. Wildcatter and later oil giants left California and played big slate games in Texas, New Mexico and North Dakota.

California has also restricted oil pipelines, so foreign oil imports have increased to offset decreased domestic production. In 1982 California produced 61.4% of its oil consumption and imported 5.6%. In 2019, 29.7% of the Californians consumed oil was produced in the state, while 58.4% was imported – mostly from the Middle East and South America.

Mr Newsom last year banned gas-powered car sales until 2035, but California’s thirst for oil isn’t going to wane anytime soon. The state must therefore import more oil by tanker to offset the reduced production from its fracking ban. This will increase global CO2 emissions. In other words, Mr Newsom’s climate gesture is counterproductive.

Candidate Biden denied that he would ban fracking last fall, but missed out during a debate that he would “move out of the oil industry”. Mr. Newsom shows him how.

Journal Editorial Report: Paul Gigot interviews environmentalist Björn Lomborg. Image: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

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