News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Californians Oppose Fracking, but Some Could Be Bribed with Cheap Fuel

Almost half of Calfornians are opposed to more fracking in the state, according to a poll released Friday, but some of those opposed say they could be bought off with cheaper fuel. According to the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll, 45 percent of Californians opposed an increase in fracking in the state -- until pollsters reminded them of the possibility that fracking might lower the cost of gasoline and natural gas.

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Once the possibility of cheaper fossil fuels was on the table, according to pollsters, support for fracking among California voters climbed to 56 percent, with 33 percent remaining opposed.

Fracking, an informal term for hydraulic fracturing, is a practice in which water, sand and grit, and a mixture of chemicals is injected into geological formations at high pressure to make it easier to extract gas and oil. Fracking is widely criticized for its apparent effects on groundwater, and health risks to people in the vicinity of the wells.

There's some detail worth teasing out here. According to the press release, the two sets of numbers are ever so slightly apples-and-oranges. The 45 percent of opposed voters were opposed to an increase in fracking, while the 56 percent of economically fracking supporters merely agreed that fracking should remain legal. How many of the 56 percent of those voters that thought fracking should stay legal would okay an increase in the practice isn't clear.

According to that press release, even with the reminder about cheap gas Californians still favor strict regulations on the practice:

Fifty-eight percent of voters wanted to prohibit fracking in all areas near sources of groundwater, and 52 percent of voters favored offering tax incentives to companies with a track record of fracking safely. Eighty-four percent of voters supported a requirement to inform property owners of fracking near their land.

Opinion on fracking breaks down along demographic and geographic lines in the state. 60 percent or more of African-American, Latino, and Asian voters oppose the practice, compared to around 42 percent of White/Anglo voters. Support for the practice is heaviest in the drilling-rig-pocked Central Valley, much of which is underlain by the Monterey Shale -- a recent object of desire for the fossil fuel extraction set. It's estimated there are more than 15 billion barrels of oil in the Monterey Shale, essentially inaccessible without fracking.

Statewide, twice as many Democrats as Republicans support an outright ban on the practice -- 37 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Almost as many respondents who didn't list a party preference favor an outright ban as among Democrats: 34 percent.

1,500 registered Californian voters were surveyed for the poll, which has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.


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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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It seems to me that you buried the lede a bit. The debate in California has been primarily about whether hydraulic fracturing should continue in a regulated -- indeed, soon to be more highly regulated -- environment, or whether the process should be banned.

Only 30 percent of respondents in the poll agreed that hydraulic fracturing should be banned. A full 60 percent said that it should either remain legal with additional regulations (41 percent) and (19 percent) said that no new regulations were necessary. This is particularly noteworthy because the survey told respondents -- falsely -- that there is currently no state regulation. This means that the Assembly was reflecting the will of the people when it quashed a hydraulic fracturing "moratorium."

To be sure, there are data in the poll that might give extremist anti-industry activists some comfort, but, again, this is largely because facts weren't provided to the respondents.

The fact remains that by a 2-1 margin Californians want us to continue developing our energy resources using hydraulic fracturing, and they want to make sure that it is done safely. And, as you noted, when respondents were told of the potential economic benefits of more development, their support increased.

Based on hydraulic fracturing's 60-plus year record of fundamental safety, this is a sensible position. It is also the position of the Obama Administration, Governor Brown, DOGGR, responsible environmentalists, scientists — and the oil and gas industry.

Dave Quast
California Director
Energy in Depth
A project of the California Independent Petroleum Assn.



Thanks for the info Dave. Could provide a list of the chemicals utilized in the hydraulic fracturing process? While you're at it, could you indicate the amount of water used to extract a cubic meter of NG or a barrel of crude oil , and, how the oil and gas industry accounts for and disposes the fluids used in the extraction process?


Thanks, Joaquin. Companies voluntarily disclose chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process at, and new iindustry-supported regulations will make such disclosure mandatory. Water use in California differs significantly from water use elsewhere; we use much less. More here: