California Gov. Jerry Brown Rejects Activists’ ‘Ideological Bandwagon’

For several months now, ideologically motivated environmental activists have been waging a scare campaign in California aimed at pressuring state lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to ban hydraulic fracturing. The activists are targeting this technology because it could be used to produce oil from California’s Monterey Shale, which according to a new study from the University of Southern California, could create as many as 2.8 million jobs and generate almost $25 billion in new annual tax revenues by the end of the decade.

So is the fear campaign working? Not on Gov. Brown, apparently. Here’s how Reuters covered some remarks from Gov. Brown at a March 13 press conference:

California governor Brown says state needs to look at “fracking”

California Governor Jerry Brown, a prominent environmentalist, said on Wednesday the state should consider the use of “fracking” technology to develop its massive shale oil reserves and reduce reliance on imported oil. …

“We want to get the greenhouse gas emissions down, but we also want to keep our economy going. That’s that balance that’s required,” he said at an event to announce the approval of three new renewable energy projects. …

Some groups have called for an outright ban on the practice in California, and state lawmakers have introduced a flurry of bills that seek to regulate the industry.

Brown said any decisions on fracking would be based on science and common sense, and on a process that “listens to people but also wants to take advantage of the great opportunities we have.”

“The fossil fuel deposits in California are incredible, the potential is extraordinary,” he said. “But between now and development lies a lot of questions that need to be answered.”

But when you listen to the State of California’s recording of the press conference, the news is much worse for the activists, and much better for those interested in a rational, fact-based discussion about the role of domestic oil and gas production in meeting the nation’s future energy needs.

(The full press conference can be accessed here, and a shorter, edited audio clip of Gov. Brown’s remarks on hydraulic fracturing can found here.)

Gov. Brown first got a question about his position on hydraulic fracturing in California and whether he supports “new regulations on that practice.” California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources has proposed updated rules that would allow the continued use of hydraulic fracturing, but with tougher oversight and disclosure requirements. Here’s Gov. Brown’s answer:

I support our Division of Oil and Gas. They are excellent people and I look for them to navigate the issues as we go forward. The fossil fuel deposits in California are incredible. The potential is extraordinary. But between now and development lies a lot of questions that need to be answered, and I feel confident that the people are in place in my administration to handle the issues as they come up. And they’ll be decided based on science, based on common sense, and based on a deliberative process that listens to people, but also wants to take advantage of the great opportunities we have in this state.”

Later, Brown was asked by a reporter to “reconcile your desire to fight climate change [and] your enthusiasm for renewable energy with what seems to be support for fracking in California and an expansion of it.” The reporter noted that some people who voted for Brown “would like to see an outright ban on fracking in California.” Here’s an edited transcript of Brown’s answer:

“Do you know how much oil is imported to keep our cars going? … [When people in California] can get around without using any gasoline, that’s the time for no more oil drilling. Maybe. Because they’ll be many other people still driving. We’re importing oil from many places. It means you’ve got to bring it in by ship or by truck or by pipeline – by something.

So taking care of our own problems is a good thing. So if we need to have everybody driving around, as we do … we’ve got to get some oil. Now, do you want to get the oil from Venezuela [or from] 100 miles away?  …  By the way, oil off the City of Long Beach has put hundreds of millions of dollars into building necessary facilities at our Cal State University. Very important. In the Kern Basin, lots of oil resource. So we want to get the greenhouse gas emissions down, but we also want to keep our economy going. And that’s that balance that’s required. …

We have 30 million vehicles in California. That’s a lot of oil. So I think we have room to supply our need even as we reduce oil consumption. We should be reducing it much faster than we are, and hopefully we can get some national policies to do that, but that still doesn’t mean that in the meantime there isn’t oil under the ground in California that can’t be made very useful.”

In his closing remarks, Brown mentioned hydraulic fracturing once more in a broader answer about energy and environmental issues:

“Whether it’s fracking, or whether it’s a low-carbon fuel standard, or anything else, we keep our eyes open and we’re not jumping on any ideological bandwagons.”

When someone with Governor Brown’s long record on renewable energy and environmental regulation speaks favorably about domestic oil and gas production, it shows just how extreme the anti-hydraulic fracturing activists really are. These activists occupy the fringes of the energy policy debate in this country, and to answer Gov. Brown’s question, they really would prefer that we get more oil from countries like Venezuela.


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