Banning Fracking Is Not the Solution to Our Energy Problems


Sirarpi Topchyan

Fracking can be beneficial to Santa Barbara. There, that statement is out there now. Fracking has become a word loaded with negative connotations, to the point where the thought that fracking is actually good for California is considered outrageous.

Fracking—short for hydraulic fracturing—is the process of creating cracks and fissures in the ground, then pumping high-pressured water into those cracks to open them up even more. These bigger fissures and cracks then make it easier for oil and gas to flow out.

The issue has been presented as black and white in many cases, with those for banning fracking claiming that it is harmful to the environment because it takes land that is undeveloped and turns it into an oil field, in addition to its contamination of water from the chemicals used to extract the oil and gas.

The new local ballot initiative to ban fracking is called Measure P, and it maintains that fracking is bad for the environment and should thus be banned. But it fails to acknowledge the concept that banning fracking in California means the loss of thousands of jobs, as well as furthers our dependency on foreign oil. A coalition titled the Santa Barbara County Coalition against the Oil and Gas Shutdown opposes this measure with their “No on P” campaign.

America’s dependency on foreign oil, including oil from the Middle East, to fuel our industrial nation has had devastating consequences. The turmoil and wars in the Middle East can be linked, indirectly, to the need for foreign oil. Our dependency on foreign oil can be decreased if oil and gas are more easily obtained on US soil, and fracking is a process that does in fact make this easier while avoiding that turbulent region. This easier access to oil and gas will increase their availability in the country and decrease our overall dependency. Avoiding wars, where young men and women are killed needlessly every day, is worth a couple plots of land being used.

The nation, as a whole, is attempting to rid itself of this dependency, through efforts to increase fuel efficiency and make hybrid cars more available to the public. This effort to stop using foreign oil and prevent further conflict overseas is commendable, but banning fracking will have the opposite effect on weaning ourselves off this dependency. All the effort we have made and the effort the scientific community has put into creating alternatives to foreign oil will be wasted because much of our fuel sources will continue to be imported.

Andy Caldwell, a member of the Coalition for Labor, Agriculture and Business and an opponent to Measure P, released “Oil and Gas in California, The Industry and Its Economic Contribution,” in which he details the impact the oil industry has made in boosting the economy. Caldwell cites the economic and policy analysis group’s findings that the industry created 468,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs, brings in $40 billion in total labor income, and adds $113 billion worth of value to California’s economy. These statistics, while major, are not as important as considering the impact Measure P will have on individual families. If oil and gas are not made easier to obtain, the industry will eventually suffer and need to downsize, let people go, close down factories, and raise gas prices. This will cause turmoil for the 200 families the oil industry employs in Santa Barbara, as well as all the people living in the community as a whole who depend on oil and gas to get to work, school, and to their everyday activities.

Banning fracking in Santa Barbara County, as well as the rest of California, will deeply and negatively impact the income brought in to the state by the industry, as well as take away a significant portion of the jobs the industry has created.

The measure is going to be on the ballot on Nov. 4,  and whether or not the measure passes depends on the votes of the community. University of California, Santa Barbara is known and praised for being the UC with the most registered student voters, and if we want to make an impact on our community and our state, we should go out and vote on Measure P.