California oil drilling continues as U.S. crude oil production soars to record levels

Hundreds of climate justice advocates from throughout Northern and Central California rallied and marched in Sacramento on Sunday, September 17 to urge President Biden and Governor Newsom to make a just transition to fossil fuels, the same day a huge climate march was held in New York City. Photo by Dan Bacher. |

By Dan Bacher | 

This is an edited version of a short speech I made at the rally and march climate justice rally, march and festival organized by a broad coalition of groups in Old Sacramento on September 17. The activists urged Governor Gavin Newsom and President Joe Biden to halt approvals of new and reworked oil drilling permits and declare a climate emergency:

Today I’m going to talk briefly about oil production in California and the U.S. and the Big Oil lobbying and other money behind it.

When I first started reporting on this issue over a decade ago, California was the third largest oil producing state. Now California is the seventh largest oil producing state in the country.

However, oil companies continue to drill for oil and gas in the state — and there are thousands of unproductive, uncapped wells. The number of oil drilling permits issued by California’s oil and gas regulator, CalGEM, has exceeded 15,000 since Governor Newsom took office in 2019. 

Nearly all permits issued in the first six months of 2023 were to fix unproductive wells, not to drill new ones, according to an analysis from Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance.

On the national level, the Biden Administration recently canceled oil and gas land leases in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, but U..S oil production continues to soar to record levels. The U.S. is the world’s largest producer and world’s largest consumer of oil.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that  U.S. crude oil production will surpass 12.9 million barrels per day in late 2023 and will exceed 13 million barrels per day in early 2024, both annual records. In its September Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA forecasts U.S. crude oil production to average 12.8 million barrels per day in 2023 - 200,000 barrels per day more than in its July forecast.    

"We forecast continued growth in domestic oil production, which is bolstered by higher oil prices and higher well productivity in the near term," said EIA Administrator Joe DeCarolis.

The EIA forecasts that global liquid fuels production will increase by 1.2 million barrels per day in 2023 despite recent voluntary decreases in production from OPEC+. Global production in their forecast increases by 1.7 million b/d in 2024. 

“Non-OPEC production is the main driver of global production growth in our forecast, increasing by 2.0 million b/d in 2023 and 1.3 million b/d in 2024, led by the United States, Brazil, Canada, and Guyana,” the agency stated.

The protests on June 17, the international day of climate action, take place as the outrageous lobbying spending by Big Oil and Big Gas to influence the Legislature, regulators and Governor’s Office in California appears to be only getting worse, according to the latest lobbying disclosures with the California Secretary of State.

The oil industry pumped $13.4 million into lobbying California officials in just the first six months of 2023 to influence energy and climate policy in California. This total  puts them on track to exceed their 2022 expenditure of $18 million.

Lobbying disclosures from Quarter 2 of 2023 reveal that oil companies and trade associations spent more than $3 million lobbying and a grand total of $4,085,639 in just three months to shape policymaking efforts in its favor in California:   

The latest disclosures follow the $9.4 million that Big Oil spent to influence the California Legislature, Governor’s Office and agencies in the first quarter of 2023.  

These disclosures also follow the $34.2 million that Big Oil spent lobbying in the 2021-22 session. The Western States Petroleum Association topped lobbying expenses with $11.7 million spent in the 2021-22 session, while Chevron finished second with a total of $8.6 million lobbying California officials:…

On the national level, the oil and gas industry spent about $124.4 million lobbying the federal government in 2022, according to an OpenSecrets analysis of lobbying disclosures:… 

Koch Industries, the country’s second-largest privately held company, alone spent about $11.3 million, more than any other oil and gas company. Half a dozen other fossil fuel corporations — including Occidental Petroleum, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Chevron Corp — spent another $44.3 million on lobbying,” wrote Inci Sayki and Jimmy Cloutier. 

Big Oil and WSPA wield their power in 8 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups; (5) working in collaboration with media; (6) sponsoring awards ceremonies, including those for legislators and journalists; (7) contributing to non profit organizations; and (8) creating alliances with labor unions.

In one of the biggest oil industry influence scandals of the year, the following article reveals how the Western States Petroleum Association, the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in California, is now sponsoring dinners and awards ceremonies for journalists, including two events this year in California and a national conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Boise, Idaho:… 

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