Fossil fuels are the economic powerhouse of California

Ronald Stein
Founder and Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure of PTS Advance, headquartered in Irvine, California

The development of the internal combustion engine at the beginning of the 20th century, combined with the introduction of mass-produced affordable vehicles, got people moving on an unprecedented scale — and we haven’t looked back since. Fossil fuels and related chemicals and by-products have revolutionized our infrastructure and dramatically improved our quality of life.

California has inarguably benefited enormously from the availability of reliable, affordable oil and gas. The farm equipment essential to growing and transporting our food; the cars, buses and trains that take us to work and school; the energy to heat and cool our homes; and the manufacture of countless products we use in our everyday lives have been made possible by this invaluable natural resource.

And demand continues to grow: Before new car sales in 2016 added more than 2 million more vehicles onto California’s transportation infrastructure, with an additional 1 to 2 million more predicted annually in years to come, the 97 percent of California’s 34 million registered vehicles running on conventional transportation fuels were consuming 40 million gallons a day. Our current population of 38 million citizens is projected to grow to 45 million by 2035 and 50 million by 2050, placing even more urgent demands on our fuel supplies.

Meeting current demands even now is no easy feat. California is an energy island with the Sierra Mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, with no pipelines supplying the state from the rest of the country.

Despite our isolation, California has grown to be the sixth largest economy in the world, driven by fossil fuels.

But over the last three-plus decades, instate crude oil production here has been on a continuous decline despite ample oil reserves and infrastructure within our own borders. As it is, only about 34 percent of the oil Californians consumed last year was produced here, making up the deficit with about 11 percent imported from Alaska and about 55 percent from foreign countries. California crude oil imports from foreign countries has increased from 6 percent in 1980 to more than 50 percent today These sobering statistics should serve as a cautionary tale for those who are inclined to embrace an off-oil agenda.

And the harsh scientific and technological truth is that while California has the most aggressive alternative energy goals in the country, renewables such as wind and solar which are only able to provide intermittent electricity to the grid are as yet incapable of producing — in terms of technology, volume or reliability — the level of petroleum-based power that has long been the bedrock of the products and infrastructure essential to our standard of living.

Should the anti-oil lobby succeed, California would not be instantly transformed into a fossil fuel-free paradise. Instead, we would be forced to import our crude oil from locations that have less stringent environmental controls than ours, increasing the worlds’ greenhouse gases and widening the existing fuel cost gap between our state and the rest of the nation.

Ultimately, science, technology and the marketplace will determine the best energy mix for California. For now, oil and gas, produced under the nation’s strictest environmental regulations, will continue as the economic powerhouse that keeps our state moving.

Ronald Stein is founder of PTS Staffing Solutions, a technical staffing agency headquartered in Irvine.

Originally published in Orange County Register.

Comment on this article

Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.