CA Green Elites Block Economic Recovery

JULY 21, 2011


In 1970, Tom Wolfe wrote a non-fiction book titled “Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.” It was about poverty program bureaucrats in the Office of Economic Opportunity in San Francisco taking abuse called Mau-Mauing from program recipients. It referred to the intimidation and humiliation tactics used in Kenya’s anti-colonial Mau Mau Uprising.  The book described the new fashionable social scene of an alliance of cultural elites with so-called powerless groups to express racial and ethnic rage and white guilt.

In the 1970’s, it wasn’t enough to pursue civil rights through mainstream organizations such as the NAACP. Rather, reform could only be accomplished by the radicalization of means.

Flash forward to July 19, 2011, and the offices of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Hollister and Sacramento California, where the current version of Mau-Mauing can be found.  Only this time it might be called Mau-Mauing the “frack” catchers.


Fracking is hydraulic fracturing of deep subterranean rock formations to extract oil and gas.

The Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Los Padres Forest Watch organizations have filed a pre-emptive protest to stop the BLM from even considering a lease request for 2,600 acres, or about four square miles, in Fresno and Monterey Counties, for oil and gas development — specifically, fracking.

The protest letter is 35 pages long and contains sophisticated, albeit one-sided, analyses of the impacts of fracking on “landscapes, wildlife, and watersheds.”  This protest letter signals that California environmentalists will delay or block with environmental reviews and lawsuits any land leases for fracking on public lands.

As Reason TV has reported, fracking is a technology that has been ongoing for 60 years with about 100,000 fracking wells drilled per year with no significant impacts to water resources and the environment beyond what would result from drilling a conventional water well.

Even Lisa Jackson, Bararck Obama’s EPA administrator, admitted the environmental risk of fracking is practically nonexistent.

A recent Duke University study confirms fracking fluids don’t contaminate underground water basins.

And contrary to media notions propagated by environmentalists, water used in fracking does not significantly drain local domestic water supplies.  Water used in fracking operations is pumped to a central processing facility and reused.

According to Reason TV, the potential supply of oil that can be extracted by fracking could put the U.S. on a par with the nation of Kuwait.

One hundred percent of the coal-fired electricity generation in the United States could be replaced with low polluting natural gas, according to an estimate by Ron Bailey of the Reason Foundation. It is also conceivably possible to replace all gasoline consumption in the United States with natural gas.

The Real Environment

California’s green elites are not even concerned about the real environment.  British ecologist Matt Ridley points out that one fracking well is equivalent in energy output to about 47 of the giant 2.5 megawatt wind turbines that can be seen in California’s deserts, which would take up 188 acres of land compared to six acres for an equivalent-producing fracking pad.

But facts are not persuasive to environmental organizations which may serve fronts for protecting the economic interests of green energy-companies and the myriad green-energy bureaucrats in government agencies and universities.

Flaking fracking doesn’t even serve the economic interests of environmentalists. If expensive renewable energy is going to be economically viable, it needs to be part of a mix of different lower-cost energy sources, such as natural gas, hydropower and nuclear energy that all are relatively or totally clean sources of power.  If the California Legislature wants to secure an economic niche for renewable energy in the marketplace, it will require low-cost conventional power to offset the high price of green energy.

But this is California, where even the environmentally and economically rational thing to do is pre-empted, blocked or banned.  As is apparent from the data in the chart below, California’s green elites do not want an economic recovery.

Comparative Price of Energy

Energy Source Price per Kilowatt Hour in Dollars and Cents Price per Kilowatt Difference
Natural gas $0.66 Baseline
Hydroelectric power $0.086 + $0.20
Conventional coal $0.095 + $0.29
Wind $0.097 + $0.31
Geothermal power $1.02 + $0.36
Nuclear power $1.04 + $0.38
Average price California Residential Electricity 2010 $1.15 +$0.49
Photovoltaic power $2.11 +$1.45
Solar thermal power $3.12 +$2.46



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  1. Rob McMillin
    Rob McMillin 21 July, 2011, 12:09

    I recall a saying, I believe attributable to T. Boone Pickens, the oil tycoon: “A bet on wind is a bet on natural gas.” That gas (and it is mostly gas) is gonna get got, for multiple reasons: it’s the favored fuel of the Greens (least carbon-dense fuel available), it runs 24/7 (unlike the sun and wind), and it’s needed to back up the approved “alternative” energy sources.

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  2. Brooks Hurd
    Brooks Hurd 22 July, 2011, 07:42

    In the comparative price of energy table, the top 4 prices in the middle column have a decimal point error. Natural Gas should be $0.66, rather than $0.066 as in the chart. The difference calculations in the right hand column are correct.

    Editor’s Note: The change has been made in the text.

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  3. Ron Kilmartin
    Ron Kilmartin 22 July, 2011, 12:26

    It is a waste of time to talk with the greens about economics or anything else. Whether reason is still a parameter at BLM remains to be seen.

    Reply this comment
  4. Eisenhower
    Eisenhower 5 August, 2011, 10:50

    The above costs contain significant errors, the hydrocarbon based fuels are reasonable accurate and utilities are paying in that range. CA utilities are singing contracts for Solar PV at about 11 cents per kWh for 25 year contracts with price locked in. Wind runs in 4-6 cent range. CA need to make intelligent decisions on energy that help keep costs down and employers in state. But misrepresenting the facts does not help further rational discussions and decisions. I believe the estimates were made in good faith but many fuel based energy was based on fuel after tax cost while the renewable s were pretax (no depreciation and investment credits) and solar numbers were based on numbers several years old. Installed costs on solar PV have come down 50% in last 18 months. That being said I am very pro natural gas and should be drilling here in State.

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