We need domestic oil for our independence
By Rock Zierman
Last weekend, Japan shut down the last of its 50 nuclear power plants that had provided power to the island nation since 1966. As a result, they will be at the mercy of energy imports from other countries.
The United States, on the other hand, is the master of its own destiny when it comes to its energy future. New technology and discoveries have vastly increased our domestic reserves of both oil and natural gas. But we have to have the courage and tenacity to harness these domestic sources of energy if we want to avoid the crippling dependence Japan and many other energy poor countries face.
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Many parts of the country have embraced this growing energy independence. North Dakota’s oil production has tripled since 2007, and it surpassed California this year as the third-largest oil-producing state. It now has recoverable reserves of more than 24 billion barrels.
Coupled with increases in other oil-producing states, this has resulted in the United States’ importing just 45 percent of the liquid fuels it used, down from a record high of 60 percent in 2005. This has resulted in a 20 percent decrease of imports from OPEC countries, not to mention thousands of new jobs, billions in new tax revenues, and a shrinking trade deficit.
California, on the other hand, has not kept pace with our fellow oil-producing states. Oil production has been on a steady decline in California for two decades. Is that a result of our state running out of reserves to produce? Hardly. The Energy Information Administration estimates that California’s Monterey Shale may possess five times the oil as North Dakota’s Bakken Shale. Instead, much of the problem is man-made.
The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission recently rejected a state-of-the-art oil production project by Excelaron in the rural hills of the Huasna Field. This is a historic oil-producing location that up until very recently had oil production equipment on-site.
Excelaron has worked with county staff and residents to identify and minimize environmental issues. In fact, the environmental impact report of the project found that the Excelaron project has less than half the impacts as two solar projects in the county. If a project can’t be approved in such a compatible location, where can it be approved?
Given that California’s crude is refined into gasoline, diesel, plastics and asphalt and only .002 percent of our vehicle fleet is electric, wind and solar do not provide an alternative to domestically produced oil today.
Only imports from foreign countries, many in unstable regions, can make up for the production lost when projects such as Excelaron’s are rejected. We should harness our energy future and begin by giving the Excelaron project another look.
Rock Zierman is CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association.
We don’t need ruin that project will bring
By Ron Skinner
A proposal by Canadian and Australian oil speculators to develop an industrial oil production facility in the Huasna Valley, southeast of the village of Arroyo Grande, was denied by the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission on March 8 for good reasons.
After years of review and professional evaluation, the proposed project was found to be inconsistent with the San Luis Obispo County General Plan and incompatible with the surrounding rural community.
The Excelaron project would introduce industrial noise, odor and pollution into a quiet, clean rural environment. It would be an aesthetic scar on a pristine ecosystem. It would introduce severe risks of wildfire and potential to contaminate local and regional groundwater aquifers. It would ruin Huasna and the quality of life that exists there.
Like most of the county, Huasna has seen its share of wannabe oil tycoons over the years. There have been 78 wells drilled in the Huasna area. Only five wells ever produced anything, and the total historical production for the region is about 20,000 barrels of tar.
To put that into perspective, 20,000 barrels is about the amount of oil produced every day by the San Ardo oilfield north of Paso Robles.
The past oil production in Huasna occurred during a three-year period in the 1960s. At that time, there were only a handful of large ranches in the Huasna Valley and little development in Suey Canyon, Upper Los Berros Road, Alamo Creek and Tar Springs. Today, more than 400 homes exist in these areas that would be impacted by the proposed project.
Excelaron claims that their proposed 12-well project will be able to extract 1,000 barrels of oil per day, but they don’t propose using any of the modern methods for extracting heavy oil. Their claims appear inflated, their numbers don’t add up, and their project description is contradictory.
Several Huasna residents decided to visit some neighboring oilfields in Monterey, San Luis, Santa Barbara and Kern counties to see what 1,000-barrel-per-day oilfields look like. What we found was not 12 wells on 2 disturbed acres, but hundreds to thousands of wells on hundreds of acres of polluted land. We invite you to drive through Cat Canyon, just north of Los Alamos, to see what a 1,000-barrel-per-day oilfield looks like.
According to a report commissioned by Excelaron’s Canadian partner, but not revealed to San Luis Obispo County planners, Excelaron’s 12-well project will actually produce 10 times less oil and economic benefits than claimed by Excelaron. The report goes on to say that full production will rely not only on development of up to 600 acres and 60 wells, but it will also require steam injection and horizontal drilling, none of which are included in Excelaron’s project description.
Huasna is a special place like many places in our county. Its uniqueness and beauty are part of the reason people are attracted to SLO County and want to live, work, raise children and retire here. The residents of Huasna hope that the Board of Supervisors will uphold the decision of their Planning Commission and deny Excelaron’s appeal on Tuesday, May 15 and in doing so preserve the rural character of our community.
Ron Skinner is president of the Huasna Foundation.