‘Oil’ shale: Don’t waste the energy
Once again the phantom fancies of “oil” shale development are tickling local minds. But before flights of fancy get the better of serious thinking and scientific facts, it is well to remember that the tarry kerogen sometimes extracted from northwest Colorado shale deposits is no more “oil” in its usual meaning of high-quality crude than cheap beer is Jack Daniels. That’s why no serious scholar of world energy includes the trillions or billions of barrels of “oil” which shale boosters claim is locked in the shale rocks in any listing of world energy reserves.
Shell’s effort would seem to be creating gigantic underground electric-fueled toasters. And where would all this electric energy come from to heat solid rock to hundreds of degrees? Coal- or gas-fired generation plants? Like past shale development schemes, are high-quality energies to be used to make a low-grade kerogen tar, which then must be upgraded with additional energy inputs to make anything semi-useful? Result: an enormous net energy loss in both quality and quantity.
Shale tar products are ranked with high-sulphur coal and other dirty, high-carbon fuels as among the dirtiest, exactly what isn’t needed on an already overheating planet. Recall recent reports that the three-month period of November to February just past were the warmest on record in the United States. Except for a few scientists who prostitute themselves to hydrocarbon fuel corporations, the world’s climatologists are in agreement that human use of hydrocarbon fuels is the main source of the CO2 greenhouse effect at the heart of global warming.
So which shell is the energy under in Shell’s shale game? None. The clean energy needed is here in the Colorado sun and in efficient use of existing supplies as Amory and Hunter Lovins at the Rocky Mountain Institute have said for years. Shell can continue playing with dirty, global heating shale or it can follow BP/Amoco into development of solar and clean energy sources.
Chester F. McQueary
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