It was once a major part of the California Dream and, if energy rationality returns to California and national politics, may so again.
City Journal magazine has an excellent article about the oil fields in and off the coast of California.
“After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, the Obama administration slapped a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf and backed away from plans to expand drilling along the eastern United States. Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, saw thousands of jobs at stake and demanded that the moratorium be lifted. But the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, responded differently: he withdrew his support for Tranquillon Ridge, an offshore drilling project that would have delivered up to $100 million in yearly revenue to the financially struggling state government.
“Schwarzenegger’s reaction was a prime example of California’s animus toward oil drilling. Tranquillon Ridge wouldn’t have required a new drilling platform; it would have used an existing one. That platform stands in a safe 242 feet of water—Deepwater Horizon was drilling in about 5,000 feet—and is far from any coastal towns. Environmental activists had even cut a deal with the driller to retire the platform after 14 years. It was a deal with low risks and no losers. But news coverage from the Gulf blinded Schwarzenegger. “I see on TV the birds drenched in oil, the fishermen out of work, the massive oil spill, and the oil slick destroying our precious ecosystem,” he declared at a May 2010 news conference. “That will not happen here in California.”
“California pays a high price for its aversion to oil. By refusing to tap much of the oil wealth off its shoreline, the state is forgoing a resource that could go far to revive its economy and bring state and local governments back to fiscal health. On dry land, too, California is missing an opportunity: its vast onshore oil reserves are underused, thanks to a green-energy agenda that raises the cost of oil production and refining. Policymakers have to realize that their quixotic quest to outgrow fossil fuels isn’t helping the state.
“You wouldn’t know it from recent history, but the Golden State’s gold has been as much black as yellow. A century ago, California’s cities and future suburbs bristled with oil towers, especially in and around Los Angeles. At one point, in the mid-1920s, the state produced about a quarter of the world’s oil; today, this would be a bigger share than that of the largest two producers—Saudi Arabia and Russia—combined. With all this oil came plenty of money. In the words of author Eric Schlosser: “In many ways Southern California was the Kuwait of the Jazz Age.” Oil was part of the California dream.”