Sharper Focus does not consider the environment because so many others do it so well. But few of them realize that environmental issues depend upon economic issues.
Economic issues get candidates into the Oval Office. Environmental issues do not. Candidate Barack Obama showed he could turn around the 2008 economic crash, so he won. Then the environment won — once he was safely in office. Trump’s “victory” was certainly due to economic messaging. Republicans will soon vandalize the environment. Hillary’s economic messaging was deplorable. The environment will therefore suffer, just as it did after Al Gore’s loss, because losers have little or no power.
Hence, Democrats’ messaging must be: Economics first, environment second. On one topic, however, they rank equally.
Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) damages the environment. Chemicals are injected under pressure into rock formations underground. These contain depleted oil wells. The chemicals destroy underground barriers to extraction so that residual oil and gas can be pumped out. The chemicals used are top secret but are highly damaging (e.g., hydrofluoric acid, used to etch glass).
This subterranean destruction cannot be controlled, so petroleum products end up in drinking water. Domestic tap water has actually caught fire (The Economist, YouTube). Chemical spills are common but are hushed up. Regulations to safeguard fracking are minimal or nonexistent. Fracking takes place in secret. One thing is no secret, however, Oklahoma has seen a dramatic rise in earthquakes due to rampant fracking.
Offshore fracking is a particularly nasty business. Chemical spills and toxic wastewater discharges poison marine life. They wash up on the beach. Oil leaks pollute beaches. Regardless, a wonderful new “study” has concluded that offshore fracking is perfectly safe. Our response should be, “Pull the other leg. It’s got bells on.”
It was the response of California’s Coastal Commission and Attorney General Kamala Harris. They filed suit on Dec. 19 to block offshore fracking, challenging this “study.” And it was certainly the response of the CEO of Exxon. He knows the secrets of fracking, of course. That is why he joined a lawsuit to prevent fracking near his country estate.
The profits from “black gold” for today’s aristocracy are sacrosanct. Big Oil’s messes are cleaned up at taxpayers’ expense. The economic cost-benefit analysis is simple. America privatizes the profits and socializes the costs. California allows offshore oil drilling due to oil industry lobbying, the finest propaganda operation imaginable. All politicians are targeted. That is why California has no tax on oil extraction.
In contrast, Norway bans fracking and taxes oil extraction profits at 78 percent. Revenues are invested in education. Hence, its gross domestic product (economic output) per capita is $97,227 versus ours of $54,306 (2014 data, The Economist). Not surprisingly, Norwegians is 79 percent better off than we are. Education pays off.
I do not hate oil companies. I need gasoline. But as taxing “black gold” is hardly the end of the world, why not tax fracking at 78 percent? And why not tax offshore fracking at 88 percent? Or ban it altogether, as we once did?
In the meantime, an oil company has applied for a permit for offshore fracking in the Santa Barbara Channel. This permit would be granted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
That is why your humble scribe found himself with around 70 others outside the BOEM’s Pacific Region office on Dec. 15. The demonstration was led by Blake Kopcho of the Center for Biological Diversity. Also present were Jim Hines of the Sierra Club, former 2016 candidate for Ventura County Supervisor Carla Castilla, and RL Miller, a tireless environmental activist and co-founder of Climate Hawks Vote (a group building political power for the climate). Our purpose was to send a message that Californians oppose offshore fracking.
The meeting was peaceful but seemingly caused panic. Two armed, black-uniformed police officers showed up from the Department of Homeland Security, wearing dark glasses despite the dark rainy day. We kept calm and carried on, as did Channel 4 News. Nobody was arrested, beaten or shot, as some were at Standing Rock, North Dakota, the site of a proposed oil pipeline.
But these officers made us doubt that America is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. I was ordered to “Move away!” when I asked one of the officers a routine question with my reporter’s pad plainly visible. (He answered after seeing my surprise). The Redcoats have departed but do we instead have Blackshirts?
If all of this does not sit well with you, do something. Contact the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management at 760 Paseo Camarillo, suite 102, Camarillo, California, 93010; telephone 805-384-6305. Remember, it’s your freedom, your environment and your money. Let the permit be issued only when Exxon’s CEO allows fracking near his mansion!