Business · Fresno

“We have the capability”: Fresno leaders press for expanded oil production

Amid soaring gas prices and on-going Russian war in Ukraine, Fresno County leaders are urging the state and federal governments to increase domestic oil production. 

Tuesday, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution imploring the state and federal lawmakers to support domestic oil production to replace Russian oil and gas imports, which the United States banned in the wake of the war. 

Supervisors Nathan Magsig and Steve Brandau authored the resolution, and following its passing the board held a press conference to call for more oil production in Fresno County. 

“At the Board of Supervisors here in Fresno County, we want to see that Russian oil replaced with domestic oil,” Brandau said. “There has been some talk of going elsewhere like to Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia. In my opinion, some of those actors are not much better than Russian actors, so why don’t we just produce that oil at home and refine that oil at home? We know we have the capability. It doesn’t have to be a political football. People from both sides of the isle can join together and support domestic oil.” 

Magsig noted that over 30 years ago nearly 100 percent of the oil used in California was produced domestically, but now that number has slipped closer to 40 percent. 

Magsig also steered the conversation to the environmental impact of drilling for oil domestically versus needing to import oil and natural gas. 

“Ultimately by increasing production here in California, increasing production in Fresno County does not create more greenhouse gasses,” Magsig said. “It actually reduces them, because when we need to ship oil from other countries to us here in California, that oil has to come on ships, and those ships do pollute. But if we make that oil here domestically, that shipping cost, that shipping pollution is not released.” 

He discussed the waning oil production in Fresno County, which produced 6.6 million barrels of oil in 2019 but only three million barrels in 2020. 

Supervisor Buddy Mendes discussed the stringent regulations placed on oil drilling in the United State and California specifically, saying that no other country implements the strict rules on oil companies as are in place in the state. 

“Do you want to get oil overseas that has no regulations on it at all when it’s produced, when it’s hauled, when it’s refined?” Mendes said. “Or do you want oil that’s produced in the most safe environment that there is.” 

With Coalinga as the site of the most oil production in Fresno County, Mendes also argued for the exploration of fracking throughout the west side of the county despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s commitment to end the issuing of new fracking permits by 2024. 

“It’s all of a sudden become against some people’s religious beliefs in this state not to allow it,” Mendes quipped.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.