Los Angeles County has become a fractivism hotbed. The City of Los Angeles has voted in favor of a fracking moratorium. The county has 87 additional cities, many of which are angry about the aggressive oil extraction technique. The city of Beverly Hills voted for a fracking ban on April 22. Not to be outdone, the small city of Carson enacted a complete ban on fracking on March 18, to expire May 2. It's considering extending the ban to cover a full year. The city has legitimate reasons to be concerned - a housing tract sitting atop an old oil tank farm declared a local emergency is only the most visible symbol of Big Oil coming to town.
But oil-soaked businesses don't like the idea of a fracking ban. The Western States Petroleum Association commissioned a report claiming that the oil/gas industry in Los Angeles County supports 17,000 jobs directly in the oil extraction industry, and another 12,000 gas station jobs, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The standard talking point presents a stark either-or choice: either the world's largest urban oil field keeps fracking up Los Angeles air and risking earthquakes, or 29,000 people lose their jobs.
WSPA's math falls apart under scrutiny. Los Angeles County had 4,800 jobs in oil, gas, and coal in February 2014 per official figures, so WSPA's 17,000 direct jobs claim is part of a long California oil industry history of making things up again and again. That's not even the biggest whopper - even if every city in the county of Los Angeles passes a fracking moratorium, Angelenos still need to drive, so those 12,000 minimum wage gas station jobs are hardly threatened by fracking moratoria and oil severance taxes.
The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor is lobbying for its brothers and sisters in the city of Carson. A memo signed by Maria Elena Durazo, head of the federation, that I've obtained warns:
We hope the City of Carson will oppose a ban on oil extraction - denying the City valuable revenue and jobs. Los Angeles County continues to suffer from double-digit unemployment. We need to come together to look for way to increase revenue and job opportunities.LA AFL-CIO is actively lobbying for the oil business - it's sending canvassers into the streets of Carson "to help us spearhead our efforts" and it's asking people to mail in postcards to oppose the Carson fracking ban on April 29.
Meanwhile, a November 2013 UCLA-Environmental Defense Fund report on the under-utilized Los Angeles County solar market finds that if just 5 percent of the county's rooftops had solar installed, nearly 29,000 jobs would be created. And the greatest potential will be in the economically disadvantaged sections of the county, like Carson.
29,000 jobs (if WSPA numbers can be believed) fracking the world's largest urban oilfield and burning the planet, or 29,000 new jobs building a better world? Los Angeles Federation of Labor is making its lobbying choice. But let's not pretend that the choice is one of "jobs vs. the environment."