Big Turnout for Stop New Oil Drilling Event

By Robert Bernstein

“Stop New Oil Drilling in Santa Barbara County – A Public Forum” drew a full house to the Unitarian Society on Sunday. The event was hosted by Food & Water Watch, Sierra Club, SB Standing Rock Coalition, 350 SB, Unitarian Society of SB, and SBCAN

Here are all my photos!

The main purpose of the event was to get people to sign up for future action alerts on new oil drilling plans in Santa Barbara County.

Here people can sign up for those future alerts.

Ezra Silk of The Climate Mobilization offered an important history of the two degree Celsius “guard rail” that is widely accepted as the limit before climate change becomes catastrophic.

Many have heard the claim that a two degree Celsius rise in global temperature is the limit. But it turns out this number did not come from climate science.

To quote one version of the actual history:
Its origin stems not from the climate science community, but from a Yale economist, William Nordhaus.

In his 1975 paper “Can We Control Carbon Dioxide?,” Nordhaus, “thinks out loud” as to what a reasonable limit on CO2 might be. He believed it would be reasonable to keep climatic variations within the “normal range of climatic variation.” He also asserted that science alone cannot set a limit; importantly, it must account for both society’s values and available technologies. He concluded that a reasonable upper limit would be the temperature increase one would observe from a doubling of preindustrial CO2 levels, which he believed equated to a temperature increase of about 2°C.

Nordaus himself stressed how “deeply unsatisfactory” this thought process was. It’s ironic that a back-of-the-envelope, rough guess ultimately became a cornerstone of international climate policy.
Unfortunately, this two degree limit globally would create a devastating effect for many regions. It would be “Certain Death for Africa” in the words of Sudan’s UN Ambassador Lumumba Di-Aping.

California is already facing a Climate Emergency with record-breaking fires and a year-round fire season

The city of Los Angeles has already made such an official Climate Emergency declaration

Ezra Silk is traveling the country in hopes of duplicating such declarations in Santa Barbara and other cities everywhere.

Cody Rosenfield spoke on how Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) used price spikes and high prices to make propaganda claims about environmental regulations.

One result has been that California pays 80 cents more per gallon for gas at the pump than the US average

Ordinarily, environmentalists would applaud higher gas prices.
This Sierra Club Fact Sheet “America’s Autos on Welfare” documents $500 billion to over a trillion dollars each year in subsidies for private motor vehicle use. This is the equivalent of five to ten dollars per gallon that we are paying people to drive.

However, member companies were not raising prices for environmental reasons. They set up a variety of fake organizations tying higher gas prices to regulations.

WSPA used its near-monopoly power during California gas price spikes for propaganda purposes. “Everyone knows” that California is a high regulation state. They were able to create a false narrative that the regulations caused the higher prices. Even though prices are lower in Hawaii where virtually all fuel is imported from thousands of miles away.

In 2015 Congress ended a 40 year ban on US exports of oil. Meaning that environmentally damaging oil extraction is not necessarily going to increase the US oil supply and therefore will not lower prices anyway.

Other speakers included a Chumash Elder

Abe Melendrez of CAUSE in Santa Maria

Alena Simon of Food and Water Watch

All received rapt attention from the audience

But the main point of the gathering was to rally people to action locally. Sierra Club Santa Barbara Group Chair Katie Davis delivered the key information for action. The oil industry is trying to expand aggressive oil extraction techniques Santa Barbara County. It is our responsibility to make sure to keep that oil in the ground, Katie Davis explained.

Three major oil projects are proposed in North County by ERG, AERA and PetroRock. These proposed 760 wells would more than triple onshore oil production in Santa Barbara County.

The local impact would be staggering, not even counting the global impact of burning the extracted oil

Local impacts include:

• Significant and unavoidable impacts to water resources, special species and habitats, and significant noise.
• Would drill through the Santa Maria Groundwater Basin the only source of drinking and ag water (other than state water) for north county.
• Within the Santa Maria River and San Antonio Creek watersheds that drain to the Pacific Ocean.
• Each project would use around 7 million gallons fresh water per year for drilling, etc.
• ERG is 1,300 feet from residence, only 1,900 feet (0.36 mile) from an elementary school.
• Hydrogen sulfide laden gas 2,400 ppm, 3x lethal level
• Hundreds off tanker truck trips a day. Trucks spill more oil and gas than both rail and pipeline, 6x fatality rate.
• Gas pipelines along roads and under 101 with potential for cars to ignite releases.
• 12 faults 0.22 to 40 miles capable of 6.7 to 8.0 earthquake.
• Destruction of oak woodlands; AERA to bulldoze 300 acres, or 3 football fields, and cut down around 500  mature oak trees.

As for local benefits? The oil industry is mostly based in Kern County, not in Santa Barbara County. They mostly bring in their experts from Kern County and provide few local jobs.

In fact, sustainable energy production in Santa Barbara County already provides more than six times as many jobs as oil. That is mostly in the rooftop solar and wind industry.

Katie asked people please to sign in at the door to remain informed of upcoming hearings to take action.

Here people can sign up for those future alerts.


Written by sbrobert

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  1. It is a shame that more people, especially young people, are not listening to these dire warnings. The parking lots at SBCC and UCSB are overflowing, and the MTD buses to these destinations are nearly empty. People want to drive their cars. Everyone believes that there is a major problem, but their addiction to cars and SUVs will not end any time soon. More and more pollution is what we get, and for what?

  2. Best ways to combat climate change:
    1) Go vegetarian/vegan
    2) Don’t have children
    3) Carpool/bike/public transport; limit car trips (combine errands)
    4) Don’t use paper towels/napkins
    Science & research have shown these to be the biggest drivers. As a bike commuter, it is very discouraging to see so many people driving solo in a big SUV. I get it, I have one myself, but for daily stuff I ride. If SB people really loved the Earth as much as everyone seems to claim, fewer people would be driving. And, yeah, watching people stream into UCSB every morning in their cars, alone: sad.

  3. As noted in the article, the US is an outlier in the industrialized world by subsidizing people to drive. At the rate of hundreds of billions of dollars a year. “People want to drive their cars” because we are paying people to do so. Maybe if we had a true free market in transportation sustainable transportation would win?

  4. Some misdirected blame here. I’m one who fails to see the necessity of SUVs and other behemoths for everyone, but another major contributor is lack of public transportation that runs often and links up so it doesn’t take half a day or more to get someplace you could drive to in 10 or 20 minutes from your home. Big swaths of housing areas are a mile or more from a bus stop and then require several transfers to get downtown or to the airport for instance.

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