The hydraulic fracturing issue got the most attention at this weekend’s state Democratic convention with protestors haranguing Governor Jerry Brown during his address. The issue presents pitfalls for Democrats when you consider the number one issue for voters is jobs and the economy, and at the same time many Democrats want to spend more on public services.
Californians demand for energy far exceeds the alternative plans offered in the Democratic agenda such as trying to get people to live closer to work. Limiting production of natural resources will just force an increase in importation of oil and gas while jobs are lost in California.
In addition, a great threat to the Democratic agenda comes in a couple of other areas when considering the debate over fracking – spending and voter approvals.
Analysis of school spending increases since the Great Recession around the United States found the greatest percentage increase by far is in North Dakota. That state is in the middle of an oil boom. A similar oil boom in California based on fracking and the reserves in the Monterey Shale formation would produce increased revenue for the state.
Which raises the question, what are the state’s powerful public unions really thinking about the fracking issue? The California Teachers Association is the state’s most powerful union in the state in which the unions have an overwhelming influence — some say control — over the Democratic Party. Other public unions also desire new revenues that would result from increased oil and gas production. Would they stand in the way of greater production and the revenue increases that accompany it?
Also at the weekend convention, billionaire and environmental activist Thomas Steyer called for a two-thirds vote of local voters before fracking was allowed to proceed. He said his proposal is in line with the state law that a two-thirds vote is required for tax increases. As pitched by Steyer, his scheme appears an endorsement of the two-thirds vote requirement for taxes, which is at odds with many Democratic elected officials’ desire to lower the two-thirds vote for tax increases.
The fracking debate has sent fissures through the Democratic Party.