In the famous scene from the movie “The Graduate” the character played by Dustin Hoffman is trying to make his way through a party thrown in his honor to celebrate his graduation from college. One of his parent’s friends pulls him aside to give him advice for the future, “Ben” he says, “I have one word for you, plastics!”
If the movie was produced today that one word might very well be two words, Shale Energy. Shale gas and could solve this country’s energy problems. And what makes it even more valuable is that there is an ample supply of it in the United States (if our president would let us mine it).
Recent technology breakthroughs have made shale gas extraction cheap, and clean.
It had long been assumed that natural gas could only be extracted when, like oil, it had accumulated in underground reservoirs. But a far greater quantity of gas from organic residues is trapped in the rock itself, and the technology has now been developed to extract it by pumping in water mixed with salt and other chemicals at very high pressure. The advantages are enormous. Not only is it a remarkably cheap source of energy, but since most of the process takes place underground, its “environmental footprint” is minimal – far less than that of oil wells or open-cast coal mines, let alone those useless windfarms.
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So miraculous is the potential of shale gas to change the world that several countries, led by the US and China, are already piling in to exploit it on a huge scale. And an admirable introduction to this energy revolution by Matt Ridley has just been published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, available online under the title The Shale Gas Shock, with a delightful foreword by the world-famous physicist (and “climate sceptic”) Freeman Dyson.
Ridley lucidly explains how and why shale gas is transforming the world’s energy prospects, and reviews the various objections which have been raised to it by environmentalists, to whom it is anathema. They hate it to the point of hysteria because it offers the prospect of a cheap and abundant fossil-fuel that could keep industrial civilisation going for hundreds of years, and is also, according to their prejudices, environmentally friendly, because its CO2 emissions are much less than those of coal or oil.
There are also major supplies of shale gas in Europe and in Israel. Yet in both the EU and United States, environmentalists have the upper hand and are preventing shale oil exploration.
One of the first actions the Obama team took when it assumed office in was to direct Secretary of the Interior Salazar to cancel 77 shale oil and gas leases in Utah. The next year they canceled 61 onshore leases in Montana. TheGreen River shale formation in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, has an estimated 800 billion barrels of oil, which is three times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. Federal law prohibits drilling for most of these resources. In the Bakken oil shale formation in the Dakotas, there are an estimated 20 billion barrels of oil.
In the Marcellus shale formation in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York, there
could be as much as 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the largest natural gas field in
Number three in shale energy holdings is Israel, they have developed technology to make shale oil drilling even cheaper and cleaner, this will be used for Israel to extract its vast shale oil resources.
The British-based World Energy Council reported in November 2010 that Israel had oil shale from which it is possible to extract the equivalent of 4 billion barrels of oil. Yet these numbers are currently undergoing a major revision internationally.
A new assessment was released late last year by Dr. Yuval Bartov, chief geologist for Israel Energy Initiatives, at the yearly symposium of the prestigious Colorado School of Mines. He presented data that our oil shale reserves are actually the equivalent of 250 billion barrels (that compares with 260 billion barrels in the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia).
Independent oil industry analysts have been carefully looking at the shale, and have not refuted these findings. As a consequence of these new estimates, we may emerge as the third largest deposit of oil shale, after the US and China.
Israeli scientists have found a way to produce shale energy, and water in the same process.
Yet new technologies, being developed for Israeli shale, seek to separate the oil from the shale rock 300 meters underground; these techniques actually produce water, rather than use it up.
The technology will be tested in a pilot project followed by a demonstration stage. It will be critical to demonstrate that the underground separation of oil from shale is environmentally sound before going to full-scale production. The present goal is to produce commercial quantities of shale oil by the end of the decade.
If the energy industry was allowed to fully exploit our shale reserves, not only would it bring down the price of Energy, create Jobs, help cut the federal deficit, and eliminate our dependence on foreign reserves.
Bringing down the price of energy and cutting our dependence on foreign reserves will also help the US in the war on terror as some of the money spent on OPEC oil gets transferred to the hand of terrorists in the Arab world.
Exploiting our shale reserves is a win-win for America, but sadly the President and his progressive friends are determined to turn America way from fossil fuels whether it makes sense or not, and that determination is more important to the progressives than the future well-being of the United States.