California is at the beginning of a $100 billion project to run a medium-speed electrical train along and over the the San Andreas Fault in large part to give travelers an option to get from LA to Frisco without feeling guilty about global warming. Airplanes, which make the trip more quickly and with far less government subsidies, use fossil fuels — and Governor Jerry Brown and the state of California don’t like fossil fuels. That is, they don’t like them unless Jerry Brown can find some under his family’s property … and the Associated Press reports that Brown used state resources to do some prospecting on the ol’ homestead:
Gov. Jerry Brown last year directed state oil and gas regulators to research, map and report back on any mining and oil drilling potential and history at the Brown family’s private land in Northern California.
After a phone call from the governor and follow-up requests from his aides, senior staffers in the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency over at least two days produced a 51-page historical report and geological assessment, plus a personalized satellite-imaged geological and oil and gas drilling map for the area around Brown’s family ranchland near the town of Williams. …
Brown spokesman Evan Westrup declined to discuss the work for the governor, referring the AP to California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. That agency said the work was a legal and proper use of public resources — and no more than the general public would get. But oil industry experts said they could not recall a similar example of anyone getting that kind of state work done for private property.
As the AP reports, California has legal prohibitions against officials using state resources for private interests. Unless Brown intended to turn his family property over to the state, how exactly does this not constitute a violation of those restrictions? The agency says this is a normal function of its operations, but others in the industry say OGGR went way beyond their usual customer service for Brown:
Assessing a private property’s oil and gas and mineral potential is not something that state regulators typically do, one oil industry executive said. “There’s no evaluation. That’s not a service they provide at all,” said Rick Peace, president of a Bakersfield, California, company that helps manage oil exploration and production.
Roland Bain, a petroleum geologist based in Northern California, said he was struck by the report’s “beautiful map.” It was labeled “Oil and Gas Potential In West Colusa County,” and the PDF said “JB_Ranch.”
“Anyone calling in for help is not going to get that,” Bain said. “The division of oil and gas has never been in a position to give you detailed geological mapping.”
Doug Powers at the Boss Emeritus’ site calls Brown an eco-hyopcrite, and not without justification. Brown has actually tried to boost California’s oil business too, as the AP’s story notes, but often lectures on climate change and the need to fight it like World War II. Last month, Brown signed a law that will require half of California’s electricity to come from renewables by 2030, which prompts the question of what Brown wanted to do with any oil he might have found on his property anyway. Maybe he was hoping to sell it off before the end of 2029, which is only fourteen years away. The extra cash would have been nice, since the law is widely expected to double electricity rates as 61.2% of the state’s 2014 production came from natural gas, and another 8% from two nuclear-power plants, one of which (San Onofre) has been shut down.
Regardless, other private citizens would have to pay significant costs for the kind of geological analysis Brown got as a perk. Brown should fully reimburse the state for his conversion of public resources for private benefit, and should apologize for his actions — and maybe consider getting out of public service altogether. I hear there’s a nice ranch in West Colusa County where few people will bother an old politico who’s lived off the public long enough.