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Mr. McQueary cites his references

Chester McQueary

Dear Editor,

Stan Rachesky’s charge of “inflammatory bull poop” is an interesting image, since the fresh stuff is unburnable and the dry stuff smolders but hardly burns. My acquaintance with the substance, from my uncle’s cattle ranch, is direct and not from the bagged and de-scented stuff at the modern nursery supply.

But the request for information sources for my comments on shale/synfuels and the anti-missile system is reasonable. Three are directly cited: The Harvard Business School Study, Energy Future, The Exxon White Paper, and the many books and papers of Amory Lovins and his Rocky Mountain Institute at nearby Snowmass.

I’ve been following energy developments in western Colorado since the wake-up call of the Project Rulison atomic blast of 1969, and my personal library contains countless clippings, magazine articles and books.

For many years the Colorado School of Mines held an annual symposium on oil shale which then produced a small book of papers and reports. When experts get together and talk shop, the tone is usually far more calm and analytical than the spin, hype and exaggeration of corporate public relations.

The back issue files of the region’s newspapers in Glenwood Springs, Rifle, Meeker and Grand Junction are also informative.

See also Shale Country, a PR-spin soften-’em-up-for-the-disaster magazine, financed by energy companies and distributed free hereabouts in the boom years.

The Exxon White Paper is written in a tone of technological triumphalism of how they’re gonna do it and nothing gets in the way. With all the intense pro-shale corporate/government PR effort of the boom years, it was easy to conclude that the only thing thicker than the shale beds of NW Colorado was all the BS about them.

Although Energy Future was published in 1979, it is still important reading as it shows how conventional hydrocarbon and nuclear energy is covertly and overtly tax-subsidized, and concludes by recommending solar and energy efficiency/conservation as key energy sources of the future. A similar conclusion was reached by another big-picture energy study done at Carnegie- Mellon University in Pittsburgh, also recommended reading.

One of the key authors of Energy Future, Daniel Yergin, later wrote a comprehensive book on the world oil industry, The Prize, later made into a PBS documentary series. At several points Yergin reviews the estimates of the world’s oil reserves, and he never includes the 600 million, or 800 million, or 2 trillion barrels of “oil” which shale boosters claim is locked in the regional marlstones.

Regarding potential shale development, Yergin writes of “. the pulverizing and heating of shale rocks in the Rockies to a temperature up to nine hundred degrees F. Such a program would, to be sure, cost tens of billions of dollars at a minimum, it would take years to implement, it would raise major environmental issues – and it was not at all certain that it would actually work, at least on the scale proposed.”

There have been many reports of the toxic petrochemical pollution in the Kanawha and Mississippi River valleys. See the current (Spring, 2002) issue of On Earth magazine for information on the conditions in and near Houston, Texas, home to scores of oil refineries and petrochemical plants, where 25 million pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the air in 1999. Or, for direct information, move there and breathe deeply for as long as you can.

Regarding the anti-missile system, see the discussions in the op-ed pages of the New York Times over the past two years, including those of Theodore Postol. Or see the April 2002 issue of Technology Review for an article about Postol’s debunking of the faked anti-missile tests as well as Postol’s own article on the whole matter. Enough here to say that such multi-billion dollar systems are easily fooled by an array of cheap decoy warheads, some as simple and inexpensive as $3 metal-coated balloons. The system has fractions of a second to detect the real H-bomb carrying warhead(s) from among a confusing array of multiple decoys. It simply can’t do it. And as 9/11 and the USS Cole graphically demonstrated, real attacks are far more likely to come anonymously by air, land or sea, not from an easily source-tracked missile in space.

Mr. Moolick should consider what sense it makes to use vast amounts of high quality energies from electricity, natural gas, and natural crude to take shale rock through a vastly convoluted set of energy intensive processes to ultimately, maybe, have some low grade tarry kerogen. A more likely future fuel is hydrogen, clean-burning and abundant, along with energy efficiency/conservation, the sun and wind.

Chester McQueary

Parachute


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