When I first began to think about Measure P, I felt lost in the weeds of this and that detail, and I realized I didn’t have the time to research the various contentions. But fundamental principles and common sense came to my rescue. Here’s how I see it:
The language in Measure P can be fixed. The groundwater cannot.
The economics of extreme oil extraction rely on internalizing profits and externalizing costs. Put more plainly: If a well produces oil, the oil company makes money. They do not pay for the extreme climate effects of the extreme oil extraction techniques Measure P seeks to ban. We all pay. This is the real carbon tax: Costly climate chaos foisted on every current and future creature by entities that emit lots of carbon without paying the consequences themselves.
If our groundwater basins are structurally or chemically damaged, anyone who uses water pays. Just consider for a moment how serious this is. There is a small, finite amount of groundwater storage in the county. This is our drought emergency water source, and every gallon of it counts. Water stored under your feet is way more valuable than water stored, say, in the Sierras. Why? We use maybe 50 pounds a day per person of every other kind of material combined (food, gas, aluminum, plastic, etc.) … except we use about a thousand pounds a day of water, per person. Local water storage is going to be more and more important as the energy and climate cost of pumping long distance climbs.
Extreme oil may offer a handful of short-term jobs, but without water, there’s not only no jobs, there’s no life.
If oil companies were financially responsibility for the costs to climate and groundwater, there would be no extreme oil extraction (steam, tar sands, fracking, etc.).
Basically, what the oil companies have to offer is the few coins that fall from their arms while hauling their loot out of the county, for the few decades remaining till the oil is gone.
Long after the sweetness of these coins is forgotten, the bitterness of climate disruption will remain, for a millennia. The potential cataclysm of damage to the groundwater basins could last for thousands of years. Doesn’t matter if it’s 3 percent of wells that go wrong with groundwater as industry claims, or 30 percent as others claim; the cost benefit is absurdly good for them and absurdly bad for us.
There’s thousands of extreme extraction wells poised for permitting between now and the next election. Each would use millions of gallons of water.
Measure P is a necessary brake on the extreme cost to local and world citizenry of extreme oil extraction. Please vote “yes.”
Art Ludwig consults internationally on water, wastewater, and energy systems design.