A ‘conditional’ go-ahead re fracking in California

With an estimated 250 million motor vehicles plying American roadways daily, I can’t help but think of all of the gasoline being consumed yearly. Using an annual average per-capita vehicle miles traveled rate of 9,363 and an arbitrary average vehicle-miles-per-gallon rating of 17, in doing the math, that works out to the burning by each vehicle of roughly 550.8 gallons of gasoline per year. Multiply by 250 million and the result is 137.7 billion gallons of gas purchased and consumed per annum and that’s just in the United States.

Assume, for a moment, vehicle numbers remain flat and spread out over time, it is the same old, same old regarding consumer automobile buying habits. One has to wonder how such a seemingly insatiable thirst for gas and diesel fuel is going to be maintained. Perhaps to help answer the call in the next several years will be more domestic oil and natural gas extraction.

In California, a ‘black gold’ boom?

In the span of just seven years the supply of natural gas tapped from American shale deposits went from near zero in 2005 to meeting one-fifth of the country’s natural gas demands in 2012, according to America Revealed show presenter Yul Kwon in “ELECTRIC NATION,” a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) television presentation. As I see things, that number will grow.

Oil shale combustion
Oil shale combustion

It having been 175 years since Americans by the wagon-train loads ventured west to stake their 1849 gold-rush claims, I now ask: Is California ripe for a black gold (oil and natural gas) rush, the likes of which has never been known before?

What I am talking about here is “The Monterey Shale Formation” which “covers 1,750 square miles running the length of the center of the state,” as so explained in a Sept. 8, 2013 The Fresno Bee editorial. “The U.S. Energy Department estimates that the Monterey Shale contains more than 15 billion barrels of oil, two-thirds of the shale-oil reserve in the United States.”

And tapping this supply is now all but certain, meaning it is practically a done deal.

“Governor Jerry Brown on Friday, September 20 signed Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4 – a controversial fracking bill that the head of the oil industry lobby admitted will clear the path to expanding the environmentally destructive oil extraction process in California,” writes Dan Bacher at the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center or IndyBay for short in: “Brown signs bill creating ‘environmental platform’ to expand fracking.”

But, of course, not everyone is happy about that prospect.

Bacher cites several individuals who call into question the bill’s approval. In one such instance, he writes: “‘SB 4 tragically green-lights an extremely dangerous practice with terrible public health impacts near the homes and schools of California’s communities already most overburdened by pollution,’ said Madeline Stano, Luke Cole Memorial Fellow at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment.”

Fracking: What it is, what it could mean

Fracking, for those unfamiliar with the term, is short for “hydraulic fracturing,” a highly controversial method used to extract from oil shale rock buried deep beneath the surface oil and natural gas.

“The evidence of the enormous threat that fracking poses to fish, water, air and the environment continues to pile up,” Bacher relates.

Meanwhile, the Center for Biological Diversity in “Report Shows Fracking Poses Dire Threat to California’s Health, Air Quality,” also posted at IndyBay writes: “Oil companies have used 12 dangerous ‘air toxic’ chemicals more than 300 times in the Los Angeles Basin in recent months, according to a new report from the Center for Biological Diversity that is already drawing concerned reactions from public health advocates and an L.A. city councilmember. Air toxics are chemicals considered among the most dangerous air pollutants because they can cause illness and death.”

It should be so noted, though, that “Pavley added, ‘Starting January 1, 2014, oil companies will not be allowed to frack or acidize in California unless they test the groundwater, notify neighbors and list each and every chemical on the Internet. This is a first step toward greater transparency, accountability and protection of the public and the environment. Now we need immediate, robust enforcement and widespread public involvement to ensure the law is upheld to its fullest,’” Bacher wrote in citing Senator Pavley.

What’s more and according to the aforementioned Fresno Bee editorial, hydraulic fracturing in California could become more pronounced, although it is so far limited in the San Joaquin Valley to Kern County.

– Alan Kandel