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10 Reasons Why Fracking for Dirty Oil in California is a Stupid Idea

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our California News page.

The latest target of the unconventional oil craze is California, specifically the Monterey Shale in southern California (see map). Will California become the next North Dakota? Let us ponder.

Oil in California is nothing new - it's the third highest oil-producing state in the U.S. (after Texas and North Dakota, which recently displaced Alaska for the No. 2 spot). The Monterey area has been drilled for years, profitably, though production has been steadily declining since its peak in the mid '80s.

However, as you've no doubt read in recent breathless media accounts, drilling technology has advanced. Two techniques have been combined: hydro-fracturing, whereby fluids (a mix of water, sand, and chemicals) are injected into drill holes to break open tight rock formations, allowing liquid fuels to seep out; and horizontal drilling, whereby drills can travel laterally from drill sites, sometimes miles, allowing a single drill site to cover vastly more area. This is the "fracking" you've heard so much about. It puts all kinds of previously inaccessible fossil fuels within reach, albeit expensively. (Oil seems stuck near $100 a barrel, though; with prices that high, all kinds of crazy schemes are economic.)

The Monterey Shale hasn't been fracked much, at least not with horizontal drilling, but oil companies have got their beady little eyes on it. The typical news report, like this one in The New York Times, pegs the oil resource in the Monterey Shale at just over 15 billion barrels of oil, more than four times the tight oil in the storied Bakken Shale in North Dakota and more than two-thirds of all the tight oil in the country.


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