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This week the U.S. Energy Information Administration downgraded by 96% its estimate of recoverable oil in California’s Monterey Shales. Instead of 13.7 billion barrels, now EIA says 0.6 billion.

So, what next?

Californians, Governor Brown first and foremost, must face facts: the promised economic bonanza from shale oil is not coming to California. And it never was. We have reason to believe that the 13.7 billion overestimate occurred when EIA credulously internalized into its projections an oil company’s dog and pony show for investors. 

So oil and gas trade groups’ forecasts of millions of jobs and billions in tax revenue are pure fantasy, not the basis for policy decisions. Instead the 600 million barrels of technically recoverable oil would only fuel U.S. demand for a month.

The oil and gas industry still want develop the shale oil that is there, however. But now there can be no question: the costs of fracking development outweigh any possible benefits.  The health risks and the water consumption in the midst of extreme drought are simply not worth it.

Industry advocates like Energy in Depth would have us believe that the Monterey downgrade is no nevermind. Because eventually we’ll develop some new technology that allows us to extract the oil that we can’t access today.

We might have the technology someday.  But it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter.

As even the International Energy Agency tells us, to avoid catastrophic climate change we cannot burn 60-80% the oil, gas and coal that we can extract right now – forget about oil we might have the technology to extract someday.

Instead we should be moving away from dirty fossil fuels of all sorts and towards a truly clean energy future based on renewables and conservation.

Green and renewable energies have become commercially and economically viable over fossil fuels in the past years. In some cases, they are cheaper. They are also friendlier to the environment, and don’t cause the massive public health issues caused by fossil fuel development. Studies have proven that investment in renewable energies creates nearly double the amount of jobs that fossil fuel development does, resulting in a more sustainable economy in the long run.

The downgrade of recoverable oil in the Monterey Shale is a chance for California, and the entire country, to look at the future of energy development and production, and move away from a fossil fuel economy. Let’s innovate in green energy. Let’s create a more sustainable economy. Let’s create sustainable, green, healthy jobs. Let’s ensure a healthy environment, and set the stage for a clean future.

We ask our elected officials not to look at this as a loss, but instead as an opportunity to develop the future. We urge Governor Brown and the California Legislature to support Senator Mitchell’s SB1132. Let’s press the pause button on harmful fossil fuel development, and concentrate on building a better, greener future.

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