In her March 22 op-ed "Valley's economic recovery lies in shale deposit," Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen touted the economic advantages to Stanislaus County of developing shale oil deposits in the western parts of California.
She says that "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."
Well, Ms. Olsen, I am from our valley with four generations of valley natives in my family and I want to help determine how we protect the air, water and land that is a vital part of our home.
The report cited by Olsen from the USC Schools of Engineering and Public Policy, "Powering California: The Monterey Shale and California's Economic Future," was funded by the RAND Corp.
RAND itself published a report in 2005 advising caution in proceeding with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) because of significant impacts on air quality, groundwater contamination, infrastructure demands on local communities, and the potential for earthquakes in already unstable geological areas.
In its report, RAND Corp. outlined several serious obstacles to fracking, including:
Airborne emissions that could affect regional air quality. It may also lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil operations.
Water quality fracking is known to contaminate underground aquifers and destroy farmland.
Water consumption in producing oil shale is about three barrels of water per barrel of oil. The proposed fracking sites do not have substantial available water resources.
Since 2005 we have seen large-scale fracking projects in Pennsylvania, Texas and North Dakota. There have been numerous grassroots protests about the long-term damage caused by hydraulic fracturing: "Fracking, and the entire process of shale gas extraction, is not the solution to our energy challenges, as the oil and gas industry portrays it to us; instead, it is scraping the bottom of the geological barrel, bringing unacceptable health, climate, and environmental consequences while delaying and distracting us from developing energy policies to ensure our children's future," according to John Detwiler, a citizen from a grassroots group of 500 people in western Pennsylvania, one of dozens of such groups across the United States.
A growing number of citizens feel that continuing to invest in petroleum-based power will distract investors from developing renewable energy sources at a time when we need to significantly reduce our dependence on carbon-based energy in order to stop global warming. The Sierra Club is just one of many citizen-based conservation groups that oppose forms of energy development that trade short-term economic gain for such a long-term negative impact on our environment.
An article this week by Ben Keller in Business Journal praises the boost to the California economy from green technology, in particular green energy and transportation.
This way lies the future of our state's economic recovery, where it will shine not just from abundant jobs and energy but also because of wise use of that most prolific of resources, the sun.
Young chairs the Yokuts Group of the Sierra Club.