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Spillover Effect

The letter titled “Energy Wants and Needs” in the January 3 print edition claims that development of oil wells in our county will bring major economic benefits, including millions to support schools and other vital services.

These figures come from UCSB’s Economic Forecast Project (EFP), whose research team was hired by Aera (owned by ExxonMobil and Shell). The report admits it relied primarily on information provided by Aera. Really?

Even if we assume the EFP to be correct, it states the total impact of Aera’s project would be under $36 million a year. When put in perspective, agriculture generates $2.8 billion annually and employs more than 25,000 locals; tourism has a $1.9 billion impact. Revenue from oil property taxes makes up less than one percent of our county budget.

An added 296 wells will no doubt result in spills, as acknowledged in their Aera’s Environmental Impact Report, along with increased air pollution due to truck traffic and drilling. How many jobs will be lost in our much larger leisure and service industry when news of spills, contamination and worsening air pollution make headlines? How much will it cost to repair and maintain our roads due to increased truck traffic back and forth to Kern County? What happens to agriculture when toxic chemicals seep into the groundwater? Who will pay to clean up the mess?

Unfortunately, the Aera-sponsored report neglected to include those costs, making the cost analysis incomplete and unreliable as a predictor of the true profit and loss of oil expansion in Santa Barbara County.

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