My parents, like many other Hispanics, came to this country looking for a better and brighter future for their children. My parents did not have the opportunity to go to college but they worked hard and got ahead. I am reminded of that as I drive through the oil fields and see all the familiar Hispanic faces. About 70 percent of our field guys are Hispanic. Most do not have a college education but having a high-paying job allows them to raise their families in Santa Barbara County.
At a time when our county is so strongly divided toward Measure P, I think about the Hispanic community that will be most affected by the passing of Measure P. The men and women employed by the oil industry who will go home and tell their families “Sorry, mijo, but they denied me a job because the environmentalists decided it was more important to ban fracking, (which is not occurring in Santa Barbara County) than to allow me to have a job in oil.” Hundreds of people will not have means to pay their next mortgage, send their kids to college and contribute to their local economy; in a way that is in itself prejudicial.
In 2012 IHS Global Inc. prepared a report for API on the number of jobs that could be created by oil and gas development in North America over the next 20 years. The study anticipates that 1.3 million new jobs will be created directly by the oil industry. 32 percent will be employment opportunities for minorities, bumping the number to roughly 60 percent of the industry. 20 percent of the new jobs will go to women. But this news does not matter to the Water Guardians, which wants to take these job opportunities out of the hands of the Hispanics who want to work for Santa Barbara County oil producers. In 2010, minorities accounted for 26.9 percent of the people employed by the oil industry. All we want to do is provide an honest day of work so that we can provide a comfortable lifestyle for our loved ones.
If Measure P passes, I will be affected directly and my family will be affected indirectly. My brother, who is a second-year Electrical Engineering student at UC San Diego, will no longer be able to utilize my oil and gas connections to acquire local internships. I will not be able to afford to have a nice bridal shower for my sister, who is getting married next year, because my job in oil may not exist. My brother, who is going to Cal State Los Angeles, will not be able to call me and ask me to help him pay for his books. I will not be able to help my aging parents monetarily if Santa Barbara County residents decide my job is not important to save.
Oil production in Santa Barbara County accounts for a thousand jobs for people who would otherwise work lower-paying jobs and thus continue to live within the poverty level. It lowers our gas prices and allows us to get closer to energy independence. I ask you to think about my job and the hundreds of Hispanics who will be affected locally, and remind you that energy production is fundamental for socioeconomic development and poverty eradication.
Maribel Aguilera Hernandez