Thursday, May 22, 2014

Energy Officials Downgrade California Shale Reserves by 95.6 %

Energy officials downgrade Monterey Shale oil reserves by 95.6%

by Dan Bacher

Oil industry representatives have continually claimed that the expansion of fracking for oil in California will lead to the creation of many thousands of jobs and the influx of billions of dollars to the economy, but these claims were exposed as false when federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) officials downgraded Monterey Shale reserves by 95.6 percent on May 20.

In her recent blog, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California, touted the jobs bonanza that would supposedly be created by expanded fracking. (
Editors note: Update. Santa Cruz County in California triumphed Tuesday to become the state’s first county to ban fracking. The county’s board of supervisors voted to prohibit fracking, as well as gas and oil development within its boundaries.

"Senate Bill 4 created a pathway to transparent environmental protections while balancing the need to meet California’s energy demands and create valuable, much-needed jobs in the San Joaquin Valley," said Reheis-Boyd.

"A study produced by the California State University, Fresno found that hydraulic fracturing in the San Joaquin Valley’s Monterey Shale Formation could grow personal income by as much as $4 billion while creating more than 195,000 new jobs. In addition to these localized opportunities, the entire state will benefit from increased domestic energy production," gushed Reheis-Boyd.

However, Reheis-Boyd's contention that the expansion of fracking in California will create thousands of jobs and inject billions of dollars into the economy was completely dispelled when the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) confirmed new estimates for US shale oil reserves, reducing its previous estimate for technically recoverable oil in the Monterey Shale from 13.7 billion barrels of oil to just 0.6 billion barrels of oil. ( )

This amounts to a 95.6 percent reduction and "is illustrative of just how much the Monterey Shale is misunderstood," according to a statement from CAFrackFacts, a non profit organization. To put this figure in perspective, the EIA’s latest estimate of 0.6 billion barrels would only be enough to meet US oil consumption for 32 days. (

"From the information we've been able to gather, we've not seen evidence that oil extraction in this area is very productive using techniques like fracking," said John Staub, a petroleum exploration and production analyst who led the energy agency's research, told the LA Times. "Our oil production estimates combined with a dearth of knowledge about geological differences among the oil fields led to erroneous predictions and estimates.

"This downgrade fundamentally changes the risk-reward calculation when it comes to unconventional oil development in our state,” said Jayni Foley Hein, Executive Director of the Berkeley Center for Law, Energy and the Environment and CAFrackFacts Advisor. “Given that the industry's promised economic benefits are not likely to materialize, the state should take a hard look at the impacts that oil development has on public health, safety, and the environment."

For years, the Western States Petroleum Association and oil companies have made extensive claims and invested heavily in attempting to develop the Monterey Shale using unconventional development techniques such as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and acidization.

These controversial techniques were believed to be the "answer" to tapping into the oil of the Monterey Shale and replicating the oil boom that is occurring in other regions of the United States, according to CAFrackFacts.

“With these new numbers from the EIA, it is clear that the Monterey Shale will not be the panacea that will fuel our cars, jobs or the California economy,” said Dr. Seth B. Shonkoff, Executive Director of the scientific organization PSE Healthy Energy. “It is critical that California turn its attention towards energy sources that will meet our energy demands for the near- and long-term, facilitate the meeting of our climate targets and create real jobs in this State.”

"As large-scale fracking of the Monterey Shale seems unlikely, other forms of enhanced oil recovery throughout California continue to pose not fully-understood risks to the health and safety of Californians," the group said.

CAFrackFacts is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing public understanding and scientific knowledge about unconventional drilling and well stimulation techniques in California. For more information, visit or follow them on Twitter @CAFrackFacts.

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) that is leading the campaign to frack California spends more money every year on lobbying in Sacramento than any other corporate group. This massive spending enables the oil industry to effectively buy the votes of many State Assembly Members and Senators.

The organization spent a total of $5,331,493 in 2009, $4,013,813 in 2010, $4,273,664 in 2011, $5,698,917 in 2012 and $4,670,010 in 2013 on lobbying at the State Capitol - and spent $1,456,785 in just the first 3 months of 2014. ( You can bet that a good chunk of this money spent so far this year was spent on stopping Senate Bill 1132, Senator Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno's fracking moratorium bill.

A ground breaking report released on April 1, 2014 by the ACCE Institute and Common Cause also reveals that Big Oil's combined spending on lobbying and political campaigns in Sacramento amounts to a stunning $266.9 million over the past 15 years. (

However, the oil industry's ability to effectively buy the Governor's Office, legislators and environmental processes doesn't change the fact that the Energy Information Administration's estimate for technically recoverable oil in the Monterey Shale has been reduced from 13.7 billion barrels of oil to just 0.6 billion barrels of oil.

Meanwhile, opposition to fracking is mushrooming throughout the state. In the latest victory in the campaign to ban the environmentally destructive oil extraction process, Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 on May 20 to prohibit fracking and oil and gas development in Santa Cruz County.

Food & Water Watch,, Environment California, Center for Biological Diversity, Californians Against Fracking, Santa Cruz Sierra Club, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and UC Santa Cruz students rallied with Supervisor John Leopold after the vote to celebrate the victory. (

"We congratulate the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors for their historic vote towards protecting California’s air and water, and for setting a positive example for other counties and Governor Brown,” said Adam Scow, California Director of Food & Water Watch.

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