For our next trick, the federal government is going make 13 billion barrels of California oil disappear.

Right in front of your eyes.

It started in May: The Department of Energy released a study that said California does not have 13.7 billion extra barrels of oil, just waiting for someone to stick a straw in the dirt, draw it out, then start spreading around incredible levels of wealth, jobs and prosperity.

We now only have 600 million.

Presto. Chango. Gone.

And that is pretty much the way it went. People in the oil business know better. They know the oil is there. They know they are going to have to be creative to get it out.

They wonder why they have to keep reminding so many people how important oil and natural gas are to this region.

In Los Angeles County alone, about 50,000 people work in the energy business. That does not count solar and windmills. Which for many, is still more of a cause than a business.

I won’t bore you with how many tax dollars the oil business generates. Because it does not really matter: When did spinning off large quantities of cash for people who do not earn it become the only justification for pursuing a business in California?

Oil companies are not asking for money to find it or sell it or store it or transport it. They just want to produce it and go on their way. Instead we force them to run TV commercials to convince us they are really social service agencies, not industrial enterprises.

One hundred years ago, our abundance of oil made Los Angeles the energy capital of the world. That was when oil was alternative energy. The same people who devote their lives to stopping pipelines, leases, wells and cars now expect us to believe the oil is all gone.

It’s still there. Thanks for asking.

Today, our cultural institutions live off that legacy. Been to the Getty lately?

We in Southern California cover that up. Literally. Schools with oil wells disguise them, instead of celebrate them.

Oil companies know we are standing on vast oceans of oil that still bubble below us. Waiting. You thought the La Brea Tar Pits were tar? California produces a lot of oil, but it is still only a fraction of what is out there. Waiting.

A few years ago, the county of Los Angeles removed the symbol of an oil derrick from its official seal. The new symbol features a barefoot woman holding out a bowl. It could be a begging bowl. If we were serious about jobs, that would be a guy in hardhat and work boots.

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