Oil Shale - Correcting the Record: Fact of the Day

Written by EPW Press Blog


July 28, 2008
shale_rand.jpgOil Shale - Correcting the Record
EPW Press Blog
A Senate Democrat wrote an op-ed this week in the Washington Post asking "How is a federal agency to establish regulations, lease land and then manage oil shale development without knowing whether the technology is commercially viable, how much water the technology would need (no small question in the arid West), how much carbon would be emitted, the source of the electricity to power the projects, or what the effects would be on Western landscapes?"  OP-ED

Current high gas prices have renewed interest in oil shale as an alternative energy resource.  Since taking control of Congress in 2006, Democrats have blocked efforts toward the development of oil shale in the Western United States. Although the U.S. controls 72% of the world’s oil shale reserves, Democratic leaders refuse to move forward on oil shale development to reduce dependence on foreign oil. 

Claim: Some Democrats question the commercial viability of oil shale production.

FACT: The Rand corporation estimates that as many as 1.1 trillion barrels are recoverable and at prices as low as $35 to $48 dollars per barrel, within the first 12 years of commercial scale production.  At current rates of consumption, 1.1 trillion barrels equals more than 145 years of domestic supply.  This number would nearly double assuming the Department of Energy’s estimate of nearly 2 trillion potentially-recoverable barrels. Link    

Claim: Some Democrats argue that the shale production process uses massive amounts of water. 

FACT:  Oil Shale uses less water than ethanol and about the same amount as gasoline. According the Department of Energy Office of Strategic Fuels, it takes 3 barrels of water for 1 barrel of oil. Link

Claim: Some Democrats are concerned about wildlife habitat and land usage.

FACT:  One acre of oil shale can produce from 100,000 to 1 million barrels of oil.  In contrast – one acre of corn produces only 7-10 barrels of ethanol. Link

Senator Inhofe’s American Affordable Fuels Act includes language to promote the use of oil shale by removing the prohibition of final regulations for the commercial leasing program of oil shale resources on public lands. (Repeals Sec. 433 of Dept. of Interior Appropriations Act of 2008).
NREL water use for corn NREL wateruseforcorn.pdf | 202.6 KBs
EIA Ethanol Bushels per Acre data EIA  EthanolBushelsperAcredata.pdf | 249.8 KBs

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