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Thursday, November 22 , 2018, 3:12 am | Fog/Mist 52º


Trent Benedetti: Measure P — What If vs. What Is

In any discussion of Measure P, there are facts that simply cannot be disputed. Facts represent what is. Fantasies represent what if. For example, what if a frog had wings? Then each time he jumped, he could fly. Yet, frogs don't have wings and they don't fly. That's a fact; it is what is.

Proponents of Measure P fantasize about our energy coming exclusively from solar or wind or another alternative source. But, the fact is California uses oil to keep our cars and trucks on the road, planes in the sky and tractors in the field. And, according to the federal government, this will not change between now and 2040 even though the amount of energy we derive from alternatives will more than double between now and then.

We need oil and will continue to need oil. Producing more oil here means importing less oil from foreign countries. Each barrel of oil produced in Santa Barbara County is one less barrel we have to purchase abroad, and it brings us one barrel closer to energy independence.

Over 50 percent of the foreign barrels brought to California daily come from the Middle East. The region is in constant turmoil. This includes Iraq, from which comes almost 20 percent of the oil we import. We hope strife and conflict are soon gone from Iraq; however, it may be more realistic to hope we soon produce more oil here so we purchase less oil there.

Reduced reliance upon oil produced in the Middle East would be a good thing. In fact, progress toward energy independence produces many benefits. Currently, we send over $100 million out of state everyday to pay for the oil we import. That is almost $37 billion per year we could keep here if we produced here the oil we use here.

Of course, Santa Barbara County will not produce enough by itself to stop all imports, but we could stop importing a fair number of barrels and replace them with barrels produced locally.

After all, our county has been blessed with abundant oil resources. In fact, local oil production activities already contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to our local economy.

It makes no more sense to shut down our local oil industry than it would to idle productive cropland, discourage tourism, lay off software engineers, shut down manufacturing facilities or ask the Air Force to leave Vandenberg.

Expert upon expert has said Measure P will lead directly to the demise of the county's oil and gas industry. Yet proponents of Measure P want you to believe the current status quo will remain unchanged with everyone living happily ever after. It's a fantasy.

Measure P will bring litigation. Litigation is costly in a best-case scenario. The cost will be borne by taxpayers. And taxpayers could be responsible for compensating companies and mineral owners if courts determine Measure P takes property rights without compensation. Win, lose or draw, the only real question is, how much will it cost taxpayers?

Even if there is no litigation (which is an unlikely fact), Measure P will cause the industry to decline — whether it declines quickly or slowly — and the tax revenues the oil and gas industry provide to our county will decline with it. Taxes that pay for fire protection. Taxes that provide important local funding to public schools. The jobs provided by the industry will also decline, and our progress toward energy independence will be slowed. These are facts, and facts can be stubborn things.

Bottom line: Measure P is a lot like a frog. It doesn't fly.

— Trent Benedetti is a member of the board of directors of the Committee to Improve North County and a longtime local business owner. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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