According to environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, one would think that hydraulic fracturing is the root of all evil.

The truth is, hydraulic fracturing is a safe and proven energy extraction technique that has been used without incident for more than half of a century in California, and arbitrary bans on oil production threaten our state’s energy independence.

From the perspective of a farmer who has lived in Monterey County for over 64 years, I can easily consider many more things that are detrimental to our lives, such as growing government control over our lives and pocketbooks. I, too, was initially afraid of fracking when I first heard of the practice, but I really wanted to bypass the negative hype and get to the core of the topic to truly understand the pluses and minuses of fracking. U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein recently stated that she won’t try to negotiate with environmental groups as they won’t attempt to find common ground on any topic. She has never had a successful discussion regarding the state’s water issues and creating more storage. It HAS to be their way. Now they’re not happy with her.

Environmental extremists are using hydraulic fracturing as a Trojan horse in their efforts to stop all oil production in our state.

California already has the toughest standards in the nation regulating oil production. Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed the most stringent protections in the nation. This legislation requires mandatory chemical disclosure, regular testing of well and drinking water sources, and notification of surrounding landowners.

In fact, California’s strict regulations are serving as a national model. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would consider following California’s lead by requiring more disclosure of the chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing.

It is going to take time to reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels, so it makes sense to produce oil here if we can do it safely and affordably.

California is the world’s third largest consumer of fossil fuels. Every ounce of oil produced here is used here. If we restrict domestic production, our state will be forced to rely more upon imported oil. That oil will come from other states or overseas where there aren’t the strong environmental safeguards that we have here in California.

Restricting domestic oil production and relying more on oil imports could also cause gas bills to rise higher.

Small businesses and hardworking families are already suffering from sticker shock over the $4 gallon it currently costs to fill up their gas tanks. Central Coast businesses and families simply cannot afford to pay more than they already do.

In addition, oil production currently plays a critical role in our local economy. The industry is contributing to our community through quality jobs and helping to provide the tax revenue our government uses to fund our local schools, police officers and firefighters.

A recent economic analysis found that the oil and gas industry is responsible for more than 24,000 total jobs on the Central Coast. In 2012 alone, the industry statewide paid more than $21 billion in state and local taxes.

It’s time to press pause on the hype. California has the largest shale oil reserves in the nation. Other states with much smaller reserves are seeing tremendous economic booms.

With the strong safeguards our state already has in place, California has the opportunity to achieve energy independence, create high-quality jobs and generate much-needed revenue to fund the programs our community needs.

All businesses, including (yes, believe it or not) farmers, are evolving and adapting to green energy solutions. It isn’t an overnight quick fix proposal. Until we are able to make that transition we need to be more “energy independent” as a state and nation, and not cave in to radical and scientifically incorrect views.

Let’s not allow unfounded fear to stand in the way of California’s safe and affordable energy future.

– Bob Martin, General Manager, Rio Farms of King City