California has been a conventional petroleum producer since 1865, and remains the third-largest U.S. producer. However, California production has been declining by 2-3% per year, according to the state’s Energy Commission. In 2011 the Federal Energy Information Administration reported that California’s Monterey shale formation, which occupies some 1,750 square miles of California’s Central Valley, could hold 15.42 billion barrels of recoverable oil, or 64% of the total estimated recoverable oil in the 48 contiguous states.
The practice of hydraulic fracking in shale geology has revolutionized oil and natural gas production, and opened new promise for clean energy independence for America, Europe and elsewhere. Burning natural gas produces about one-half the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) compared to the conventional burning of coal.
California may find new wealth and renewed prosperity in having the largest deposits of frackable shale petroleum in the continental U.S. A recent University of Southern California study found the following concerning fracking in California:
• Development of oil-shale deposits through Central California using fracking and other techniques may boost the state’s economic activity by as much as 14.3 percent;
• Fracking in the Monterey Shale Formation, in addition to increasing per-capita gross domestic product, may add as much as $24.6 billion in state and local tax revenue and as many as 2.8 million jobs by 2020;
• Based on the experience of other states, not only would state unemployment fall, but significant migration of skilled workers into California could occur;
• The Monterey Shale may hold two-thirds of the nation’s shale-oil reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. (Bloomberg News, March 13, 2013)
California’s Conservation Department under Gov. Jerry Brown released a “discussion draft” of fracking regulations in December 2012. The proposal includes rules for storing and handling fracking fluids, well monitoring after fracking and preventing water contamination. Predictably, environmentalist opponents of the hydraulic fracking technology claim that the proposed regulations don’t adequately protect against groundwater contamination or air pollution. Some eco-groups even suggest that fracking could cause earthquakes. Some militant and partisan environmentalists will stop at nothing to impede California’s energy prosperity, and America’s energy independence.
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