SHAFTER -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari toured a drilling technology company here Wednesday and promised to rebuild the state's economy in part by improving the business climate for oil and gas.
In the last three years that Jerry Brown has been governor, California has increased its crude oil production 3 percent to 199 million barrels, he said.
During the same three years, Texas has increased its production 77 percent to 941 million barrels, and North Dakota has hiked production 105 percent to 313 million barrels.
California's economy is improving slowly, Kashkari said, but added that far too many Californians remain out of work because the state isn't business-friendly.
"If we really unleash the potential of what's possible, we could literally create hundreds of thousands of jobs," he said prior to a walk through Scientific Drilling International, a company that makes equipment for horizontal and vertical drilling.
Kashkari said he'd like to see more permits issued for hydraulic fracturing, a controversial but highly effective oilfield technique used frequently in Kern County.
In fracking, as it's more commonly known, water, sand and small concentrations of sometimes toxic chemicals are pumped underground at high pressure to free up oil and gas deposits.
Environmentalists have called for a moratorium on the practice to allow researchers to study whether it mars groundwater or increases the potential for earthquakes.
Kashkari said he isn't aware of any definitive research that has shown that fracking is unsafe, and wants to see the state participate in the industry's explosive growth.
"Oil and gas has huge, huge potential," Kashkari said.
A former U.S. Treasury Department official and political newcomer, Kashkari is a long shot to beat Brown, a Democratic governor in a blue state who has a campaign war chest of nearly $20 million.
Also running in the June primary is Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia. The top two vote-getters in June, regardless of party, advance to the November general election under California's open primary system.
On Tuesday, Kashkari unveiled a jobs plan that would create an energy and environment jobs taskforce to explore opportunities presented by the oil-rich Monterey Shale Formation.
The plan also provides 10 years of tax breaks to manufacturing companies that expand in California or move here from other states, asks voters to cancel high-speed rail planning and redirect bond money to water storage projects, and updates the California Environmental Quality Act to make it easier for businesses to comply.
Scientific Drilling district manager Jeffry Wilson, who escorted Kashkari on the tour, said he welcomes any reforms that will help the oil and gas industry grow because it touches every facet of living in the United States, from heating homes and schools to fueling tractors and cars.
"It's integrated into our daily lives, whether we realize it or not," Wilson said.
And it isn't just the oil companies that benefit, he said.
"There are hundreds of equipment and service providers for the industry who create jobs, too," Wilson said.