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Oil town hopes for a boom in jobs from California's Monterey Shale

March 31, 2013|By Shan Li

The small oil town of Taft was built on petroleum -- and is now hoping for a second boom from the Monterey Shale.

In a story on Sunday's front page, The Times wrote about the shale that runs miles underground through Southern and Central California. Oil companies are already drilling exploratory wells.

Oil trapped in deep rock deposits in the Monterey is estimated at 15 billion barrels. That's four times the amount of oil in North Dakota's Bakken Shale, which has fueled a boom that's driven that state's unemployment rate to 3.3%, the nation's lowest.

Quiz: Why are California gas prices so high? 

Efforts to drill in the Monterey have picked up steam in recent years as methods such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, have unlocked shale formations in other states.

But no one agrees on when, where or how the Monterey will be tapped. Some think it's just a matter of time. Others say it's an over-hyped promise.

Drilling may be stymied by powerful environmental groups that worry about water contamination, ruined farmland and seismic activity related to fracking.

A USC study recently forecast that the Monterey could generate half a million jobs and $4.5 billion in oil-related tax revenue by 2015.

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Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

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