I know it’s customary to start the New Year off with an upbeat assessment of the many blessings and opportunities we share. But with more than 3 million people unemployed in the six states WSPA covers, it’s hard to find much to celebrate. In California alone, 2.1 million men and women who want to work can’t because the economy remains stuck in neutral.
It’s good the jobless rate in the WSPA states – California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii – has been inching down in recent months. But there is so much more that could be done , especially in the energy sector, to put people back to work.
Take the Keystone XL pipeline, for example. We continue to debate and delay a project that would bring more of Canada’s vast oil resource to U.S. consumers, improve our nation’s energy security, and put an estimated 20,000 Americans to work immediately. And while California and other western states won’t directly benefit from the Keystone pipeline, it’s a project with such obvious and urgently needed benefits that it should have been approved and embraced long ago.
In California, we’re hearing more and more discussion about hydraulic fracturing, a technique used to release oil and natural gas from shale formations deep underground. Hydraulic fracturing has been controversial in other parts of the country but in California, where it is used to produce oil, not natural gas, it has never been linked to any environmental harm.
Yet we’ve seen a growing chorus of groups and individuals call for more regulation and even outright bans on hydraulic fracturing in California.
These activities will make it more difficult to put Californians to work sustaining and expanding California’s energy resources. And all of this is being done because of misunderstandings about the level of existing regulation and oversight that governs drilling activities and despite the fact that hydraulic fracturing has never been shown to be a credible threat to the environment.
The refining, distribution and retail side of the petroleum business also is facing a whole new series of regulations that make it very unattractive for companies to expand their operations and their employment in California.
Even though a federal judge recently ruled the Low Carbon Fuel Standard violated the U.S. Constitution, refiners are facing plenty of other climate change related regulations that will make it far more costly to produce transportations fuels in California – costs that surrounding states and even other nations do not impose making California less competitive in the global marketplace.
We’ve all heard the optimistic claims that a new era of green jobs will replace those being lost in the transition to a low-carbon future. But those green jobs have not materialized, at least not in the numbers needed to put Americans back to work in any meaningful way.
Anyone familiar with the state’s appetite for energy knows the future will require a lot more energy from a wide variety of sources. If we make it impossible or too costly to expand or even retain our domestic conventional energy producers and refiners, where will those fuels come from in the future?
There does not seem to be much disagreement that putting Americans back to work should be our number one priority. But that consensus breaks down very quickly when it comes to energy – especially petroleum based energy. We seem quite willing to sacrifice current and future jobs in the petroleum industry in pursuit of speculative and uncertain policies designed to remake the energy economy.
We should renew our resolve in 2012 to make job growth for Americans our top priority – no matter where in the economy those jobs are located. California and other western states should resolve to pursue their climate change objectives in ways that don’t put people out of work and don’t pit workers in one industry against workers in other industries.
We believe we can continue to protect the environment and broaden our energy portfolio to include new low-carbon fuels without unnecessarily killing off good jobs in the petroleum industry. In fact, that’s the only way we believe we can create lasting and productive energy policies.