When thinking of the industries and businesses that drive the economy and image of the Golden State, Hollywood, the Silicon Valley and Agriculture come immediately to mind, but looking at hard numbers, oil and gas exploration and production have to be included in this group. The Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation conducted a study commissioned by the Western States Petroleum Association to analyze the oil and gas pillar of the state’s economy. Simply put, it’s big.

According to the study, the oil and gas industry is responsible for 188,500 direct jobs and 468,000 total jobs when you consider the multiplier effect that ripples through the economy when products are produced and workers are paid. The economic stimulus also accounts for revenue flowing into state and local government coffers. The study indicates that the industry provides $21.6 billion in state and local tax revenue and $15 billion in federal taxes.

There are more numbers in the report that supports the importance of the industry on the state’s economy. But, the numbers in the report would be a low platform of what the oil and gas industry could do for the state’s economy and government budgets if hydraulic fracturing (fracking) uncovering new oil and gas supplies meets projections.

Just yesterday in the Los Angeles Times,  Mark Zoback, a fracking expert interviewed by the Times’ Patt Morrison, said that handled properly, fracking in California could bring great rewards. Morrison, in one question, referred to the possibility of a “second Gold Rush.” Comparing any economic boost to the gold rush, which made this state is, well, the gold standard in this Golden State.

Yet, despite the economic benefits the oil and gas industry brings to the state, it faces obstacles, requirements, and out-right opposition from many in the environmental and political communities that wish it would just go away.

The study indicated how far the oil and gas business has fallen in this state over the last three decades. In 1982, there were 38 operating refineries in the state. By 2012 there were 16. In 1982, 61-percent of crude oil to the state’s refineries came from in state. By 2012, the figure was down to 37-percent while foreign oil over those three decades jumped from 6-percent supply to the refineries to nearly 51-percent today.

Crippling the oil and gas industry will cripple the state’s economy and make California more reliant on foreign oil. Encouraging the oil and gas industry to produce in a responsible way can boost the economy while creating and maintaining high wage, middle class jobs that the industry provides.

In 2009, the Milken Institute conducted a similar study on the impact of the Chevron Corporation on the California economy. The results were very similar to this new study: Many good jobs created with a ripple effect of job creation throughout local communities.

At the time the Milken study was issued I wrote that study reminded me of the Winston Churchill quote on private enterprise: “Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse pulling a sturdy wagon.”

Not much has changed when considering the LAEDC report. There are those who would try to undercut oil and gas industry at every turn, maybe to extinction. Others want to milk it with all kinds of new tax proposals. Yet, as this new report attests, the oil and gas industry is helping to pull the California economy steadily ahead.