Yesterday the New York Times reported that the Monterey Shale, in California’s Central Valley, may be sitting on as much as 14.5 billion barrels of oil. Previously unreachable, modern ‘fracking’ technology has now put them within reach.

As we’ve seen in states like North Dakota, with its Bakken Shale, fracking can bring an immediate boom to an area previously desperately in need of one. But before we even have a chance to sharpen the drill bits, California’s powerful environmental community is revving up its significant lobbying operation to try and prevent the black gold from coming to the surface.

Fracking has become a hot potato between warring special interest factions but its economic impact cannot be underestimated. Several reports claim that should all available shale oil and gas be opened up, the United States could become the largest producer of hydrocarbons in the world, bigger than Saudi Arabia; for a time anyway.

Despite our nearly perpetual five-dollar gasoline prices, California’s cadre of unelected and virtually unaccountable regulators will be under enormous pressure to throw up roadblocks to expanding the state’s native oil supply; once again favoring more expensive and less efficient forms of energy production.

As the price of oil has risen, Americans, and Californians in particular have opted for smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Indeed, all cars are better off mileage-wise now than they were 15 or 20 years ago. Consequently, we’ve seen a corresponding drop in gasoline tax revenues forcing the state to find other ways to raise money.

With nothing in the way of an energy policy, and a tacit agreement that higher gas prices are a good thing, the additional state revenue that drilling in the Monterey Shale would bring takes a backseat to the benefits for all Californians. (As a note, these are the same folks who deprive Central Valley farmers of water for their crops that feed the world, to save a small guppy-like fish called the Delta Smelt.)

And while the ivory-tower folks debate whether or not they will allow expansion of California’s oil industry, folks in the Central Valley, who desperately need more jobs and economic opportunity, will once again find themselves at the mercy of those who claim to protect them but in reality leave them behind.

With unemployment rates in some Valley counties in the high teens or low 20s, opening up the Monterey Shale would create immediate well-paying jobs for Californians who need them – creating a wave of economic growth that would benefit families, cities, schools and the state at large.

Access to cheaper, local energy sources, with California’s refining capacity would allow the US to import even less oil from around the world – whose petrochemical-rich regions are almost universally hostile to us, and therefore require less in the way of global policing that is required today.

California has been, and should continue to be a leader in economic, technological and educational innovation. The Monterey Shale offers the Golden State an opportunity to revive its economy, begin to pay down our staggering debt and shore up programs all citizens believe are important.

And the environment should be a concern. No one wants to live in an oil-drenched wasteland. But that’s not what anyone is suggesting – in fact fracking can and should be done in an environmentally responsible way. But the folks that want to stop it are the same people who would just as soon see us all live in tents and eat grass while they drive their cars to work carrying leather briefcases.

Let’s be reasonable and growth-oriented. Let’s commit to growing our state’s economy, taking advantage of natural resources that are available to us, and giving the Central Valley a chance at its own economic boom. Just because they live in the Central Valley, and not Silicon Valley doesn’t mean they should not have the same opportunities.