Fracking will drive oil boom, federal report says
As oil regulators draft rules for hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," in California, a new federal report underscores the critical role the controversial procedure will play in what energy authorities predict will be a national oil boom.
The federal report, released Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration, projected a sharp rise in U.S. oil production in the coming decades, driven largely by fracking, which involves injecting chemical-laced water and sand deep into the earth to break apart rock and release crude.
The predicted boom has big implications for California.
The report projected that by 2040 more than half of onshore oil production in the continental United States will come from "tight" oil deposits like California's Monterey Shale -- up from a third last year. Oil companies have been exploring the potential of fracking to tap that oil-rich formation here -- the largest of its kind, running from Northern California to Los Angeles.
The energy industry lauded the findings, saying fracking was critical to the country's economy.
The report "proves that American ingenuity and sensible regulations can unlock hundreds of years of affordable energy supply under our feet, create good-paying jobs, and promote our nation's energy security," said Daniel Kish, senior vice president of the Institute for Energy Research, an industry-backed think tank.
Environmentalists, however, have raised concerns about potential environmental and public health hazards, including contaminated drinking water. Unlike other oil-producing states, California does not have disclosure rules for fracking, meaning companies do not have to report what chemicals they inject or where they employ the procedure.
Several environmental groups in California sued the state this year in an attempt to require more disclosure from oil companies under the California Environmental Quality Act. State lawmakers have also introduced legislation to make reporting mandatory for energy firms.
Regulators have said they plan to release draft regulations for fracking before year's end.
-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: Homes overlook the Inglewood Oil Field. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times