The politics of oil shale

Big Don

Sr. Grandmaster
Sep 2, 2007
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Sanger CA
The politics of oil shale

Fortune talks to Sens. Orrin Hatch and Wayne Allard about the roadblocks to oil shale production.

By Jon Birger, senior writer

With gas at $4 a gallon, development of oil shale in the United States is bogged down in politics.
CNN/Fortune/Money Article

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- You'd think this would be oil shale's moment.
You'd think with gas prices topping $4 and consumers crying uncle, Congress would be moving fast to spur development of a domestic oil resource so vast - 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil shale in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming alone - it could eventually rival the oil fields of Saudi Arabia.
You'd think politicians would be tripping over themselves to arrange photo-ops with Harold Vinegar (whom I profiled in Fortune last November), the brilliant, Brooklyn-born chief scientist at Royal Dutch Shell whose research cracked the code on how to efficiently and cleanly convert oil shale - a rock-like fossil fuel known to geologists as kerogen - into light crude oil.
You'd think all of this, but you'd be wrong.
Sen. Hatch: Let's compare it to ethanol. Corn needs about 1,000 barrels of water for the energy equivalent of a barrel of oil. That's a crazy amount of water, but it's worked out alright so far because corn is grown in rainy areas, for the most part. But if you want to increase the amount of ethanol, you're going to have to go to irrigation, and then there will be major water limits on how much we can afford to grow.
On the other hand, the Department of Energy estimates that oil shale will require three barrels of water for every barrel of oil.


El Oso de Dios!
Lifetime Supporting Member
Mar 5, 2005
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Where the hills have eyes.,and it's HOT!
I've gotta admit, the Shell process looks pretty promising, both economically, and environmentally. I can't blame the people of those states, and their representatives, for being concerned about environmental impact, though-we're talking about basically building refineries in the wilderness, after all. Some of it-a LOT of it-would be thought of by many as "barren BLM wasteland," but some of it is on Indian land, which opens one whole can of worms, and some of it is on viable grazing land and on quite a few people's playground: hunting, off-roading, etc. It would be good to see a proof-of-principal in situ test site.....probably won't happen: we'll set it up as soon as we're desparate enough, and environmental consequences be damned.

Anyway, I don't think this is a "Democratic" thing, as much as a "constituency" thing, but what the heck do I know?