The Great California Old Boom a Mirage?

What looked to be a looming apocalyptic battle between environmentalists and oil company allies lost steam this week, as reported by the San Jose Mercury‘s Josh Richman:

The fierce debate over “fracking” in California grew louder Wednesday with a new report that drastically reduced the estimate of oil that existing technology could extract from the state’s massive underground reserve.

The news, which cut the forecast by 96 percent, weakened hopes for an oil boom that would bring millions of jobs and billions of dollars in new tax revenue to the Golden State, home to about two-thirds of the country’s shale oil reserves. But foes of hydraulic fracturing — which uses pressurized liquid to break rock formations to mine gas or oil — were over the moon. They argued that the new estimate by U.S. Energy Information Administration scientists makes fracking in California politically unfeasible considering the potential environmental and seismic damage.

“The myth of vast supplies of domestic oil resources and billions in potential revenue from drilling in California by the oil industry has been busted,” said San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, the former hedge fund manager who founded the nonprofit NextGen Climate to fight global warming.

A lot of that now-phantom oil from fracking was supposedly going to transform the economically stricken Central Valley, and appeared to some Republicans to represent a massive future wedge issue to use against the smug environmentalist hippies of the Coast who didn’t want to let Bakersfield or Fresno become the next Houston. But alas, alackaday, it may have all just been a mirage.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.