With oil prices at record highs and energy costs ever increasing and unemployment still through the roof, Californians are demanding the production of more affordable, alternative energy sources right here in the Golden State.

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to do just that through the process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” When you consider that the expansion of fracking has the potential to significantly boost our economy, it seems like a no brainer for California to tap into what is estimated to be the largest oil reserve in the United States.

During the “fracking” process, oil and natural gases that have been entombed for millions of years in shale rock formations are unleashed as water is tunneled into the earth at a high pressure.

Fracking in California is nothing new and has been occurring in our state for several decades.  However, with fracking expansions close at hand, California citizens and legislators are worried about the toll a full-fledged expansion would have on our environment.  Focusing on these environmental concerns, Democratic legislators have devised almost a dozen bills that would tightly restrict or even terminate fracking in California.  Yet according to the Department of Conservation, no legitimate reports of environmental damages have ever been substantiated in California’s use of fracking.

By making full use of fracking technology, California can produce the energy that will generate billions of dollars of revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs within the next decade.  So what’s stopping us?  One concern with hydraulic fracturing is that it uses an exorbitant amount of water.  According to Environmental Law Updates and the US Geological Survey, the water that is used for fracking amounts to less than 0.1% of the total freshwater use in the United States.  Comparatively, golf courses use five times more water, and agriculture uses 243 times more water.

Fracking is leading California towards a massive economic boom, yet environmental groups charge that the chemicals added to fracking water are detrimental to groundwater.  However, only 0.5 % of the fracking fluids are comprised of chemicals.  Additionally, state drilling regulations specifically require that fracking take place below groundwater.  To put this in context, fracking occurs approximately 6,000 feet or more below the surface, approximately four Empire State Buildings beneath our groundwater supply.

Far from harming California’s pristine environment, fracking will provide jobs and state revenue through a new energy supply that is independent of the largely foreign sources of energy we rely upon today.  The nation’s richest oil shale formation lies beneath our feet in California at the Monterey Shale.  The Monterey Shale is a colossal 1,750 square mile formation that dwarfs all other shale oil reserves in the nation with a whopping 15 billion barrels of untapped oil right here in our state.  The Monterey Shale alone has enough oil to make California energy independent for a half century.

Imagine not being dependent on oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Iraq.  Expanded fracking would enable Californians to access abundant, untouched supplies of oil and natural gas that would allow us to illuminate light bulbs, heat homes, and power vehicles without relying on any foreign entities.  As an energy-independent state, production costs would decrease in manufacturing, giving California a competitive edge in the world market.  It would also bring price relief to a state that has one of the highest prices for gasoline in the nation.

By 2020, it is estimated that fracking will create 2.8 million jobs in California and generate $24.6 billion in new state tax revenue.

It makes no sense for the Legislature to throw up roadblocks to fracking, as some of my colleagues in the majority party have proposed.  To the contrary, we should look at the gift of this new industry in California and together shout “Eureka!” to the Monterey Shale while reaping the benefits of a modern-day Gold Rush.