Stanislaus County. San Joaquin County, Kern County. Merced County. Tulare County. Fresno County. Madera County. Kings County.
It is a list of shame when it comes to poverty, unemployment, and local government struggling to provide basic services.
The eight counties that comprise the San Joaquin Valley are considered the richest agricultural region in the world yet many families struggle to put food on the table. Poverty and other issues prompted the region to be tagged a few years back as the New Appalachia in a Congressional study.
So what if you were told there exists a way to drastically alter the economy of the San Joaquin Valley and to bring in cash that could rival the wealth of the Silicon Valley? And at the same time it could send billions in tax dollars each year flowing to Sacramento while creating jobs?
The valley’s economic savior?
As in shale oil.
The San Joaquin Valley Basin is the inland portion of the vast Monterey Shale. Old-school technology for extracting oil can only retrieve about 6 percent of what is found one to two miles below the surface. New technology has prompted government and private sector experts to project that the Monterey Shale could produce 500 billion barrels of oil, with much of it coming from the San Joaquin Valley.
So how big is the Monterey Shale oil field?
Compare it to the Bakken Shale where you can find Boomtown USA - Williston, North Dakota with its unemployment rate of less than 2 percent. Williston, by the end of this year, is expected to be American’s top oil producer, exceeding even Prudhoe Bay in Alaska.
The Bakken Shale has proven reserves of 24 billion barrels of oil. That is paltry compared to the Monterey Shale and its estimated 500 billion barrels of oil.
So where are the state tax credits or energy policy aimed at harnessing what could be life-changing industry not only to tens of thousands of impoverished San Joaquin Valley families, but steady oil supplies and lower prices at the gas pump for Californians, not to mention truckloads of tax revenue?
Good question. State leaders seem to be wrapped up in debate over how to transfer even more water away from San Joaquin Valley agriculture so Los Angeles will not only have a steady supply but one that requires minimal expansive treatment to prepare it for human consumption. It is water that will help the Los Angeles economy grow at the expense of the impoverished San Joaquin Valley, that could lose tens of thousands of farm jobs in the process.
At the same time, the powers that be in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento are forging ahead with the $100 billion high-speed rail designed not for commuters as the bullet train is in Japan, but for business travelers and those that can afford to vacation. The main advantage is the riders can just speed through the New Appalachia without having to take in the sights of poverty. And as an added bonus, San Joaquin Valley jobs that exist to cater to the freeway travelers will be lost, further increasing the unemployment rate.
California does a nice job at developing an economy that can help enclaves such as the Silicon Valley, the Bay Area, San Diego and the L.A. Basin prosper.
It is time, though, that the most impoverished region in the state is given a chance to share in the California Dream. It will require Sacramento to aggressively encourage development of the Monterey Shale at an intensity that matches their love affair for solar technology companies in the job-rich Silicon Valley.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.