by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
There’s a growing call for California Gov. Jerry Brown to stop issuing oil and natural gas leases in the state, with some even arguing that all state fossil fuel production should be shuttered.
Yet continuing the current trend of dwindling in-state crude production wouldn’t mean California stops using oil. The state, ranked as one of the “greenest” in the country, would still use lots of oil, it would just come from other countries.
In fact, more than 56 percent of the crude oil received by California refineries were extracted in foreign countries, according to California Energy Commission data. California, once the third-largest oil state, is now more reliant than ever on foreign oil.
The biggest share of California’s oil imports come from Saudi Arabia, which makes up 29 percent of foreign crude flowing into the state. More than 70 percent of foreign oil imports to the state come from OPEC members, including Iraq, Kuwait and Ecuador.
California’s share of oil coming from foreign sources has ballooned since the late 1990s. Decades of state policies restricting drilling played a role, as did declining production in Alaska.
The state legislature also completely banned new offshore drilling leases in 1994, decades after the massive Santa Barbara oil spill. Geological factors also make it expensive to pump out crude compared to other states.
While environmentalists have chastised California for its oil production, the state’s eschewing of crude extraction has contributed to its increased reliance on foreign oil.