Illustration for article titled California Commits to Phasing Out Oil Extraction by 2045

Photo: David McNew (Getty Images)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a directive Friday that sets an aspirational 2045 deadline to halt all oil extraction within the state. It also orders the state’s Department of Conservation to quit issuing new fracking permits by 2024.

“California is now the first state to declare an end to oil extraction in the country,” Newsom tweeted Friday. “Today, we’re announcing that we will phase out all oil extraction—as part of a world-leading effort to achieve carbon neutrality—and ban fracking by 2024.”

In the directive, Newsom instructs the Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management Division to stop issuing new permits for hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, by January 2024. Countless studies have outlined the serious health and environmental threats linked to this controversial method of oil and gas extraction, in which chemicals, water, and sand are blasted into rock formations to crack them open and release the oil and gas trapped inside.

Newsom has previously expressed support for phasing out fracking, even issuing a moratorium on new permits in November 2019, but since that ban was lifted in April 2020, the governor has signed off on dozens of new permits, angering environmental advocates.

However, fracking only accounts for about 17% of California’s total oil and gas production. Putting an end to the state’s oil extraction will be a bit more complicated. For now, Newsom has requested that the California Air Resources Board “analyze pathways” to halt the practice across the state by no later than 2045.

California is one of the top oil-producing states in the U.S., producing nearly 145,000 barrels of crude oil in 2020 alone, according to Statista. But production has steadily declined over the past few decades as the state adopted some of the nation’s most aggressive climate change policies. This latest announcement follows Newsom’s call in September to halt the sale of new gas-powered vehicles in the state by 2035, and dovetails California’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2045.

“As we move to swiftly decarbonize our transportation sector and create a healthier future for our children, I’ve made it clear I don’t see a role for fracking in that future and, similarly, believe that California needs to move beyond oil,” Newsom said in a statement issued by his office on Friday.

Of course, it should be noted that this ambitious announcement, which marks a reversal from the governor’s previous claims that he didn’t have the authority to outright ban fracking, comes as an effort to force a recall election against him picks up steam. So there’s little doubt that Newsom is trying to drum up some good PR, even if the commitment itself is a welcome step in the right direction.

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