California Governor Gavin Newsom recently ordered state agencies to stop issuing new fracking permits by 2024 and to look for ways to phase out oil extraction by 2045, despite his insistence last fall that he could not unilaterally ban fracking as governor and his call for the legislature to act instead. The timing synchronizes with the state’s target date to achieve carbon neutrality. The order makes California the first jurisdiction in the world to set an end date on hydraulic fracturing and on the state’s oil production.
Newsom’s edict banning fracking permits was directed to the Department of Conservation’s Division of Geologic Energy Management and his request to look for ways to phase out oil extraction altogether in California no later than 2045 was directed to the state’s Air Resources Board. Newsom announced that the California Air Resources Board will examine the “economic, environmental and health benefits and effects of eliminating oil extraction” as the state seeks to become completely carbon-neutral by 2045.
Environmentalists had accused Newsom of not promoting legislation to halt the issuance or renewal of fracking permits, which was to begin on January 1, 2022—faster than Newsom’s timeline. The bill failed to pass out of committee on April 13. The bill would have also prohibited fracking, as well as acid well stimulation treatments, cyclic steaming, and water and steam flooding in California entirely beginning January 1, 2027.
The announcement adds to a list of executive actions that Newsom has taken on climate change in recent months. On September 23, Newsom ordered a ban on new gas-powered vehicle sales starting in 2035. Two weeks later, on October 7, he signed an executive order setting a goal to conserve 30 percent of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030.
California Will Increase Its Reliance on Imports
Fracking provides from 2 percent to 20 percent of the state’s oil production, according to estimates that vary in part based on how the process is defined. Horizontal drilling combined with high-pressure injection of fluids have helped independent producers extract more oil from older and less productive fields, which has preserved thousands of high-paying jobs in California. The oil and gas industry employs about 150,000 workers in the state who earn on average $80,500 a year.
California was once among the nation’s top oil producers, but production plunged roughly 60 percent since the mid-1980s as regulatory costs and cumbersome permitting have retarded investment. Wildcatters and later oil giants left California and made big shale plays in Texas, New Mexico and North Dakota.
California has also restricted oil pipelines, so foreign oil imports have increased to compensate for reduced domestic production. In 1982, California produced 61.4 percent of its oil consumption and imported 5.6 percent. By 2019, 29.7 percent of the oil California consumed was produced in the state while 58.4 percent was imported—mostly from the Middle East and South America.
Despite Newsom’s ban on sales of gasoline-powered cars by 2035, California’s will still need oil and will have to import more oil by tanker to compensate for reduced production from his ban on hydraulic fracturing. Importing more oil will increase global carbon dioxide emissions due to tanker deliveries. So, if Newsom is banning fracking because of the climate issue, it is counterproductive.
California and its governor are serving as examples to President Biden on how to destroy American industry and make the United States dependent on Middle East oil again and on Chinese rare earth and other precious minerals, which are needed for electric vehicle production and wind and solar technology. Obama and Biden both have tried to follow in California’s footsteps in pursuing other regulatory and executive orders. The exodus of Californians to other states and the recall of Governor Newsom should be a warning to President Biden that these actions are not what the American public wants.