Anti-Fracking Fervor Builds In CA Even As It Lifts U.S. Economy, Stature

Chris Reed
San Diego Union Tribune editorial writer and former host of KOGO Radio’s “Top Story” weeknight news talk show

Anti-fracking sentiment in California continues to build, and we’re likely to see a spate of local moratoriums aimed at blocking the oil-drilling process in many cities and counties. This is happening even in places not normally associated with petroleum production, as this Orange County Register story makes clear.

In Brea, residents started researching fracking, gathering information about polluted water wells and increased seismic activity in other areas across the country, such as Oklahoma, where scientists have linked wastewater injection wells with an increased number of earthquakes.

Initially, Fujioka – the Brea fracktivist – didn’t even know fracking was happening near homes and schools, but she soon found out using online mapping tools.

So, Fujioka scheduled a meeting before the City Council. It transformed into a presentation by the main driller in the region, LINN Energy.

At an alternative meeting, 100 residents showed up seeking information on fracking. Another meeting followed, this one sponsored by Cal State Fullerton and paneled by academics and industry representatives, at which 500 residents sought information.

Residents in other Orange County cities are joining the movement. At the very southern end of the hills, Yorba Linda activists are just getting started. Karen Hill, an active member of Brea Congregational United Church of Christ, an anti-fracking hotspot, believes fracking will contaminate groundwater near her community, even though most water is imported.

Given that the California media still refuse to report that the Obama administration considers fracking safe, this alarmism isn’t that surprising.

But what’s also interesting is that the international and national media increasingly have figured out that fracking has been profoundly good for the U.S. economy. This is from a Financial Times of how cheaper energy was helping U.S. exporters:

The price gap has led to a 6 per cent average increase in US manufactured product exports, the IMF wrote in its twice-yearly World Economic Outlook. […]

Lower prices for natural gas favour energy- and gas-intensive industries, such as steelmaking, oil refining, and nitrogen fertiliser production. The International Energy Agency has previously warned that Europe will lose a third of its share of global energy-intensive exports over the next two decades because its energy prices will remain stubbornly higher than those in the US.

And then there’s this remarkable development. At a time when international opinion of the U.S. seems to be largely negative and even baffled — a president sending mixed messages for years will do that — fracking has created a positive aura around the U.S.

New York Times: Fracking ‘gust’ lifts U.S. reputation

Who says so? Lots of analysts and academics, including the Harvard professor who popularized the idea that nations wield not just military might but “soft power” that influences global opinion. This is from the New York Times:

It has become fashionable to note a decline of American global power and influence, but don’t tell that to the energy experts.

Many see increased domestic production of oil and gas as driving more muscular United States energy diplomacy, power that exists in curious tandem with the Obama administration’s efforts to wean the world off fossil fuels.

“The rapid rise in U.S. oil and gas production, together with the decline in oil consumption and the elevation of climate change as a priority, is completely scrambling the way policy makers think about energy diplomacy,” said Michael A. Levi, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Joseph S. Nye Jr., the Harvard professor who articulated the notion of “soft power” in international affairs, sees a “shale gale” propelling America’s status: “If you are attracted to a country or any leader, a lot has to do with the feeling, ‘Do they have momentum? Is the wind in their sails or are their sails flapping?’ We’ve got a gust.”

Carlos Pascual, a former senior American diplomat, agrees. Increased energy production “strengthens our hand.” he said.

Will California’s vast Monterey Shale ever be tapped to add to this U.S. momentum? I’m not optimistic. But if it does happen, it would produce more middle-class jobs for California than any dozen government initiatives.

And it would also yield vast new revenue. Which state has seen the sharpest percentage increase in education spending in recent years? The state that has the lowest unemployment and the fastest economic growth.

That would be North Dakota, global ground zero for the fracking revolution.

Cross-posted at CalWatchDog.

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