Legislators Should Know California Fuel Facts Before Making Laws

Ronald Stein
Founder of PTS Staffing Solutions, a technical staffing agency headquartered in Irvine

As the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) reports, there are no easy answers to our complex energy challenges for the future, as we need more than “green” electricity, we need replacements for hundreds of thousands of fossil fuel products that contribute to modern civilizations’ industries and infrastructures.  If there was a silver bullet answer to the energy challenge, it would already have been discovered.

Here are a few “fuel facts” that have recently been reported by the ASCE, which is not connected to the oil industry, and graded by the ASCE in their recent Infrastructure Report Card.

California is an energy island with the Sierra Mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other side. There are no pipelines “into” the state from the rest of the country, thus we have no access to the growth in domestic oil production, other than by bringing in the crude by rail or shipping it through the Panama Canal to California ports. 

In 1980 California’s instate crude oil production and imports from Alaska provided 94% of California’s crude oil needs. Over the last 3+ decades, California production has been on a continuous decline as well as a declining in imports from Alaska.  California crude oi imports from foreign countries has increased from the 6% in 1980 to more than 52% today, which is almost one million barrels a day imported to California ports.

Even though America has more recoverable oil and natural gas supplies than Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, China, and all of the OPEC nations combined, the California Energy Island has no access to the growth in domestic oil production, other than crude by rail or by increasing in-state crude oil production back to levels attained in 1980.

The number of Western United States manufacturers of aviation and transportation fuels and by-products from crude oil are: A) California 12, B) Arizona 0, C) Nevada 0, D) Oregon 0, and E) Washington 5. The California “island” is bordered by AZ, NV, and OR which have no manufacturers of aviation and transportation fuels.  AZ and NV receives much of its aviation and transportation fuels needs via pipelines from California to those states, of products manufactured from crude oil in California.

Despite the occasional mishap in refining that the press hypes as a common occurrence, the USA Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows that the downstream refining businesses have been reducing the risk of all injuries – including serious injuries and fatalities – for the last 20 years. Today, the BLS data shows that working in a refinery is safer than working in an office building!

Today, California has more than 145 airports (inclusive of 10 major and 33 military, plus smaller, reliever and general aviation airports. California’s annual aviation fuel consumption in 2013 amounted to 10 million gallons of aviation fuels every day to keep the airline industry and the economy running smoothly. For America’s military, the strongest in the world, California is home to more than 30 military installations and over 168,000 of our war fighters, all of which are based on fossil fuels and the products derived from crude oil. The 33 military airports in California are: Army 4, Air Force 7, Coast Guard 2, Marines 6, and Navy 14.

Again, just in California, before new car sales in 2016, the 97 percent of California’s 35 million registered vehicles that run on conventional transportation fuels were consuming 40 million gallons a day. Vehicle sales in 2016 added more than two million more vehicles onto California’s transportation infrastructure, of which 93 percent of the new car sales were fossil fuel driven. Every year there are another 1 to 2 million more vehicles added onto California’s transportation infrastructure.

The Institute for Applied Economics of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) conducted an industry contribution analysis of the oil and gas industry in California in 2013 and reviewed selected characteristics of its workforce. According to the LAEDC, the industries and jobs most closely linked to petroleum supply are manufacturing, agriculture/forestry, and transportation sectors: A) Manufacturing: 1,260,430 jobs, B) Agriculture: 511,000 jobs, C) Transportation: 465,970 jobs.  These 3 primary industries purchased more the $24.2 billion worth of products from California’s refineries in 2013.

The impact of not manufacturing California’s aviation and transportation daily fuel needs of our mobile society “in-state”, is that the world’s GHG’s would be greater as no other state or country has stricter environmental controls and regulations than California. In addition, importing manufactured fuels into our ports would be more expensive resulting in even higher energy costs for the citizens of California.

California has numerous reasons for their cost of fuels being higher the rest of the country: 1) before the 2017 SB1 adds significant tax and fee increases to finance transportation infrastructure, California fuel taxes were already the highest in the country, before those huge increases. 2) California has cap and trade costs that are added to the cost of fuel.  3) California has boutique fuel brands that no one else in the country currently makes. If other States chose to manufacture the California boutique fuels, the only way to get it to the California energy island is to ship it thru the Panama Canal to California ports. 4) Fuel for our 35 million vehicles are manufactured in California which is the most environmentally regulated location on earth. 5) California consumers continue to pay for our go-it-alone emissions crusade over the last 10 years that has generated more than $7 billion in taxes for the government, but the California Energy Commission (CEC) has yet to see any results over the last decade in reducing California’s 1% contribution to the World’s Greenhouse Gases.

If we’re serious about getting to zero emissions, maybe it’s time to start scaling back on our usage of airlines, vehicles, and cruise ships to lower our greenhouse gas emissions and start reverting back to the pre-1900 horse and buggy days for our transportation systems, and the “snake oil” pitchmen for our health care system, and no medications, no cosmetics, no fertilizers, and no computers nor iPhones.

The unintended consequences of reverting back to those good old days would be huge losses in jobs in every business sector and a major hit to the economy.  Our leisurely lifestyle is driven by those “chemical ingredients” that are derived from the fossil fuels of oil, coal and natural gas, as they are not derived from solar panels, wind turbines or from nuclear power.

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