Wednesday, June 1 , 2016, 12:58 am | Overcast 57º

Katie Davis: Initiative to Ban Fracking Better for Our Environment and Our Economy

By Katie Davis |

A recent opinion piece by Lee Rosenberg singles me out for attack, but I am just one of hundreds of volunteers and tens of thousands of people who signed the petition to get an initiative on the ballot in November to ban fracking, acidizing and steam injection in Santa Barbara County.

These extreme extraction techniques are water-intensive, which is a poor use of water in our drought-stricken county. They have caused water contamination elsewhere, including chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects.

The "Healthy Air and Water Initiative to Ban Fracking" does not ban all oil extraction as Rosenberg falsely claims. It does not apply to any current production, any approved projects or any future conventional oil production. It is limited in scope to future production using specific, risky techniques.

A boom in extreme oil extraction in Santa Barbara County would damage our water, air and health, hurt nearby property values and negatively impact our economy, which is primarily based on tourism, wine, agriculture and technology.

It is also incorrect to imply that we need this oil for our own gasoline consumption. Oil is a global commodity, and all oil produced here is transported elsewhere to be refined. In fact, gasoline use in the U.S. is declining due to greater fuel efficiency and fewer miles driven. According to the International Energy Agency, "In the next five years, almost half of global oil demand growth will come from China, and this trend is set to continue to 2035. In contrast, oil demand among OECD countries (such at the U.S.) is expected to decline over the next two decades."

What is largely a local market, and more essential to our area's economic health and well-being than oil, is water. Risky oil production here could raise costs for water and food locally, and in the case of contamination, puts entire local watersheds at risk.

Santa Barbara's clean tech sector is strong and a great source of future job and economic growth. According to the Santa Barbara County Industry Cluster Report, "Santa Barbara's employers that ware working with new emerging technologies are most likely to be focused on smart grid and energy efficiency, emerging information technologies, solar and/or photovoltaic technologies, or agricultural research."

The problem is that the oil industry puts a lot of money into politics and has a disproportionate influence. That influence is likely to discourage policies and programs that could most benefit our clean tech sector and long-term economic growth, as opposed to temporary oil production.

In the case of this initiative to ban fracking, it is not necessary to choose between the environment and the economy. Both would be better off if this Initiative passes in November.

The use of false premises and personal attacks are common tools of propaganda campaigns. They are commonly employed by the side that does not think they can win on the facts. I believe the people of Santa Barbara County are smart enough to see through these tactics and act to protect our region and our health from the threats posed by these risky oil extraction techniques.

— Katie Davis is a former high-tech executive and a volunteer with the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians.

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