New information released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) suggests that fracking in America is more bust than boom. The controversial method of extracting natural gas from shale rock formations via hydraulic fracturing or fracking has been touted by the industry as an American energy revolution that will free the United States from foreign oil, create thousands of good jobs, replace coal and build a bridge to a renewable energy future. But all of those claims are now suspect and probably false now that the EIA is slashing by 96 percent to 600 million barrels the amount of recoverable oil in California’s Monterey shale reserves.
Image via Tim Evanson
This is a significant development because the natural gas industry has been promoting Monterey as a game changer, estimating that that the shale deposits in the central part of California contained 15.4 billion barrels of oil — more than double the amount of recoverable oil at the Bakken shale in North Dakota. Fracking Monterey was expected to create 2.8 million jobs by 2020 and boost tax revenue by $24.6 billion annually.
Governor Jerry Brown embraced fracking and faced similar criticism to President Barack Obama for talking about the urgent need to act on climate change while at the same time promoting natural gas fracking — a practice that has come under increasing scrutiny for contributing to climate disruption via methane gas leaks at fracking wells that are likely underestimated by the natural gas industry and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
One recent study of fracking sites in southwestern Pennsylvania found that gas wells were releasing up to 1,000 times more methane than the EPA estimated. Methane is a more potent short-term greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — 86 times more damaging to the climate than CO2 over a 20-year period. It has been determined that methane leaking more than three percent from natural gas production is no better for climate disruption than coal-fired power plants. That’s why some are critical of the EPA for relying on industry claims when it comes determining the methane leakage rates at natural gas fracking sites across the country.
“We now know Governor Brown’s promised shale oil economic bonanza isn’t coming,” said Jennifer Krill, director of the environmental group Earthworks. “The environmental risk of fracking remains, but without any possibility of California reaping an economic reward.”
With fracking going bust in California, the potential for scaling up carbon-free clean energy sources could become more urgent. There is currently a solar boom taking place in The Golden State. Last year California installed more rooftop solar than the previous 30 years combined.