Monday, March 04, 2013

Black Gold Versus Green Religion

Gas prices in the Southland are again well above four dollars, and in some regions of California over five. The typical political response to this state of affairs is to blame the dastardly oil companies, as Dianne Feinstein did last October when prices spiked even higher and the senator demanded a Federal Trade Commission investigation into the presumably nefarious cause of this rise.

Even a non-conservative source like NBC news, however, was still honest enough to report that Californians have only themselves and their elected officials to blame for soaring prices at the pump. Boutique gas blends, limited refining capacity, and the second-highest gasoline tax in the country (almost fifty cents a gallon) are three factors that regularly combine to push pump prices into the stratosphere.

Fortunately, the once-Golden State is now sitting on a vast store of oil within the Monterey Shale formation. This geological region measuring 1,750 square miles and stretching from southern to central California constitutes two-thirds of the country’s estimated shale oil reserves and dwarfs the ample supply in North Dakota that has fueled an economic boom in that state.

Unfortunately, the chances that California’s Green political machine will allow this resource to be effectively tapped—to reduce unemployment, erase budget deficits, and eventually trim gas prices—are slim and none.

Hollywood, the prime source of misinformation for many West Coasters, has already launched a major theatrical broadside against the fracking process by which oil is obtained from shale. In the film “Promised Land” Matt Damon is the celebrity employed to show that oil companies are ruthless and will go to great lengths to discredit environmental concerns. The movie, not coincidentally, was largely funded by an enterprise owned by the United Arab Emirates—an OPEC nation that clearly hopes to stifle U.S. oil production.

Ironically, there are significant potential environmental upsides to accessing this huge oil reservoir—like reducing tanker-spill risks and cutting greenhouse gas emissions in refineries due to the quality of Monterey oil. But it’s unlikely the oil-is-evil crowd will care about these considerations since, as one pundit observed, “their opposition is more religious than rational.”

Radical environmentalists have so cluttered the Internet with apocalyptic fracking scenarios that it’s hard to find unbiased expert information. Geologist Ian Duncan’s sober analysis, for example, is buried beneath scores of anti-fracking screeds.

Last October Senator Feinstein declared that forcing motorists to pay dearly for gasoline was “untenable.” But don’t count on Feinstein’s support for accessing a resource that could actually lower those prices. Her position will likely follow the theological urgings of the state’s green, wealthy coastal elite—not the distress of reddish inlanders.

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