Our golden state has continued to lose its luster over the last several years. With persistent unemployment and eroding public services, this invincible giant of a state has become largely dysfunctional. Other states with growing economies, good-paying jobs, and improving schools suddenly became attractive to Californians. In fact, more than 2 million Californians have moved out of the state since 2000.
Since the Gold Rush, California had been a magnet for economic opportunity. Our resources, agriculture and manufacturing sectors, at one time made California the fifth largest economy in the world. With our economic engines humming, everything was possible. We built freeways, universities, a water system and world-class infrastructure that was the envy of the rest of the country and the world.
We can do that again. A new report released last week by the USC Schools of Engineering and Public Policy, "Powering California: The Monterey Shale and California's Economic Future," highlights the opportunity for a powerful economic recovery that development of oil from California's Monterey Shale can mean, especially for the San Joaquin Valley. (This report is available at http://is.gd/u1sbdn.)
Despite its name, the Monterey Shale and its 15.4 billion barrels of oil are located on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, from Kern County in the south to Stanislaus County in the north. This is a San Joaquin Valley resource, and it could be the best news for the valley's economy in a long time.
While most of our state has struggled with unemployment just under 10 percent, the San Joaquin Valley continues to suffer with disproportionately higher unemployment rates. According to the Employment Development Department's December data, Stanislaus County's unemployment rate is 15 percent while Merced County's is even higher at 17.2 percent. The jobs and economic opportunities that would come with development of the valley's oil resources could be an incredible turning point for our region.
According to the USC study, developing the Monterey Shale could add from 512,000 jobs in 2015 to 2.8 million new jobs by 2020. Nowhere else are we going to see this level of job creation.
When I served on the Modesto City Council, I sought ways to increase investment in Modesto that would attract new jobs. Serving in the Legislature, I have an obligation and a responsibility to do the same for our region. These jobs won't come easily, and they won't come without strong, determined, bipartisan advocacy on behalf of our area's individuals, families and job creators.
The Monterey Shale oil in the San Joaquin Valley is only now becoming available because of recent advancements in oil production technologies like hydraulic fracturing. As the USC study highlights, oil can't be extracted from deep shale formations like the Monterey Shale with conventional oil wells. But hydraulic fracturing has emerged as a valuable technique for oil and gas production throughout the country. In fact, because of technologies like hydraulic fracturing, North Dakota recently surpassed California in oil production and its unemployment rate dropped to 3.1 percent.
Stopping the development of this oil resource in the valley has become a top priority for many environmental organizations. Despite their expressed and perhaps disingenuous concerns for the health and welfare of the Central Valley, these groups are not from our valley and should not determine whether and how we develop our resources.
Developing the rich resources of Monterey Shale will give us an unparalleled opportunity to bring thousands of permanent jobs back to the Central Valley, which will positively impact individuals, families, schools, roads and other public services while lowering crime rates, growing the larger state economy and providing for greater energy independence. It is a win-win that will help lead our great state to a place where it can shine once again.
Olsen, R-Modesto, represents the 12th Assembly District.