Geologists estimate that there are 800 billion barrels of oil locked away in the shale rocks of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. But there are some serious obstacles to unlocking that oil, not the least of which are the formidable political forces that oppose oil shale development. If you want to learn more, there was an excellent story in this past Sunday's Denver Post about the technological, economic, social, and ecological feasibility of developing oil shale in the western U.S.
In a recent post, I suggested that I was perplexed to learn that the Bush administration had already proposed a final rule for western oil shale exploration. The most persuasive argument against oil shale thus far, has been the prohibitively high cost of extracting oil from rock. The technology showing the most "promise" would require simultaneous super-heating and super-cooling of the rock formation, a process requiring tremendous amounts of both electricity and water.
And while all of these arguments are valid, I would suggest an even more powerful reason to avoid oil shale: Every watt of energy, every drop of water, and every dollar spent on oil shale development, is that much less we spend on getting off of fossil fuels altogether. Something that MUST eventually happen, no matter who you ask.
Photo: dsearls via flickr under a Creative Commons License