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The Monterey shale bed is a bust. 96 percent less usable oil than expected

California Fracking protest
California Fracking protest
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California hosts the massive Monterey Shale formation, which holds an incredible amount of oil. The problem is that the oil must be recoverable. Now it appears that the shale field will not produce any huge bonanza anytime soon. According to a May 23 MSN News article, authorities at the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) have slashed the estimated recoverable oil output by a shocking 96 percent.

A May 20 LA Times article indicated that the full EIA report will not be released to the public until June. Meanwhile industry and European Union operatives are scrambling to contain the devastation. One major casualty is with the disturbingly secret Transatlantic Partnership Agreement (TPA). This treaty is drawing as much ire as the equally ultra secret Transpacific Partnership agreement (TPP). During negotiations, the U.S. and the European Union plotted to exploit Monterey Shale, offshore drilling and other U.S. resources for export. A May 19 Huffington Post article exposed the secret dealings in a trade memo.

The Monterey Shale beds contain most of the nation’s oil, but without new technology, the amount of recoverable oil will be nothing like previous forecasts indicated. This is a major blow to Obama administration, the European Union and oil industry dreams of becoming quickly independent of middle eastern oil.

The formation called the Monterey Shale goes down the middle of California starting near the capitol at Sacramento. The formation ends at the Los Angeles basin. It goes for 1,750-miles and there are coastal regions included. The bad news is that California’s fractious crust has folded the shale into a jumbled mess. Other inland shale formations are nicely layered and relatively undisturbed. The Monterey Shale disruptions mean that there is little or no technology available for extracting vast quantities of oil.

The error originated in the Energy Information Administration's review of output from wells where new techniques were successfully used. John Staub is the analyst who headed the government’s research into the Monterey Shale bed. He said,

"Our oil production estimates combined with a dearth of knowledge about geological differences among the oil fields led to erroneous predictions and estimates."

The oil industry continues to push the idea of rescuing this failed national boondoggle with promises of future technologies. Environmentalists and anti-fracking groups have been trying to tell the U.S. and its foreign partners all along that California shale is not like any other shale. The near histrionic greed for local oil, however, caused the national government to ignore anything the state had to say. Worse, the federal government has allowed offshore drilling and other deals without even informing the state.

Perhaps now is the time to listen to California, a state that knows itself and leads the nation in environmental sensitivity and regulation.

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