by David Sassoon - Oct 1st, 2008
On October 1st a long-standing ban on the commercial development of oil shale on federal lands expired. That means America is now on the edge of an abyss, about to take the plunge into an endless fossil future. The steady march toward this awful future of extended oil addiction is a fact hidden in plain view.
It is a march being aided and abetted by half a billion dollars of oil and coal lobby money, by the recent votes of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and by a media more lap dog than watchdog. Though unintended, even all the campaign talk about a clean energy economy is serving to obscure this clear and present danger.
Oil shale is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels known to man. Its extraction releases two to five times more greenhouse gases than conventional crude oil, and uses vast amounts of water. In Western lands where oil shale deposits are abundant, water is already in scarce supply.
America's energy and climate future will be determined by what the nation decides to do with its deposits of oil shale. There are as much as 1.8 trillion barrels of oil locked up in shale deposits in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. There's more oil in the shale than there ever was in Saudi Arabia. It's value? More than half a trillion dollars over a 25-year period. It's the most important energy issue there is, and almost no one is talking about it.
Here's what you have to do to extract oil shale. Oil workers start by constructing a five foot thick wall around a 1000-foot square foot cube of the Earth. They drill deep holes into the cube at 25 foot intervals and insert massive electric heating coils. The coils are turned on and left on continuously for two or more years at 650 degrees F. Finally, the oil slides out of the shale. You've heard of electric cars? This is electric oil. - more
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