The battle is heating up over California's vast Monterey shale field where environmental and oil interests will battle over using fracking to extract oil from the shale. According to a Feb. 3 New York Times article, both sides have compelling arguments for exploiting the vast reserve while conserving the land. Environmentalists and geologists are concerned that the Monterey shale is deeper underground and will lead to more troublesome geologic outcomes. Oil investors and the federal government see the largest oil reserve in the United states. Little is said about the benefits or losses that California voters can expect.
If the goals are limited to financing federal and corporate ambitions while Californians continue to struggle, then California voters will join in the battle. This unanticipated force will be as powerful, and unpredictable as the environmentalists, the federal government and the oil prospectors combined.
The Monterey shale field covers 1,750 square miles of Southern and Central California. This could make California the biggest oil producing state in the union, surpassing North Dakota and Texas combined. At an estimated 15.4 billion barrels, the Monterey shale field could produce than four times the reserves of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.
Overly aggressive hydraulic fracturing at deeper levels will require new technology that could destabilize the land in one of the most earthquake prone areas in the world. The state's existing fracking wells are about 2,000 feet deep. The Monterey wells would reach depths of 6,000 to 15,000 feet. The fracking wells are devastating to the landscape, with plenty of evidence that a hideously ugly and toxic mess will be left behind.
In the end, exploiting the vast Monterey shale field in California will not be as easy as exploiting vast shale fields elsewhere. The battle is heating up over California's vast Monterey shale field and there will be unexpected combatants on the field. The California State Department of Conservation released a discussion draft of fracking regulations in December as part of a lengthy process to establish the ground rules. Then the battle for a balance between corporate and federal profit, the will of Californians and land use will begin.