Science and Politics: Oil

Where will we get the energy we need for the future?: Some people would like to see more oil drilling in the US.
Where will we get the energy we need for the future?: Some people would like to see more oil drilling in the US.Courtesy L. Gnome

(With the Republican National Convention literally across the street, the Science Museum of Minnesota will be closed starting Friday, August 29. But Science Buzz marches on! To honor our convention guests, I’ll be posting entries focusing on issues where science and politics overlap. Hopefully this will spur some discussion. Or at least tick some people off. This is the last entry in this series. Previous entries here, here, here, here, here and here.)

Energy is one of the big issues in this election cycle. With gasoline at record high prices, and much of the world’s oil lying in politically unstable regions, there is a lot of pressure to do more drilling in the US, open up more areas to exploration, and build more refineries.

Meanwhile, many conservation groups oppose more drilling, especially offshore or in ecologically sensitive regions of the Arctic. Some call for conservation measures to help reduce oil consumption.

(While the Science Museum of Minnesota does not endorse any candidate or platform, I personally like this energy plan.)

The Bureau of Land Management has announced that a major source of oil is sitting right below our feet: oil shale. Shale is a fine-grained rock made of compressed clay or mud. In some place, oil seeps into the rock. This oil is much more difficult to extract than free-flowing liquid petroleum. But with gas at $4 a gallon, it is becoming feasible to squeeze oil from the rock.

The government estimates there could be up to 800 billion barrels of oil sitting beneath Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. This is equivalent to our current oil imports for, roughly, 219 years. So, tapping this resource would go a long way toward meeting our energy needs until other, greener sources (wind, cheap solar, non-food ethanol) come on-line.

The Bureau of Land Management has produced preliminary guidelines for regulating commercial oil shale production. They are prohibited by law from producing final guidelines. The President has asked Congress to lift the ban so that this effort may go forward.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

j-squad's picture
j-squad says:

I Agree 2 much is enough
***Cant Stop M3 3ven If U Stop M3***

posted on Thu, 09/25/2008 - 4:05pm
NConnel's picture
NConnel says:

In Canada, they have started commercially producing oil from shale, and their shale reserves are, I believe, the largest in the world. Look it up!

posted on Wed, 10/29/2008 - 9:10am
jimh's picture
jimh says:

The total costs of producing oil from shale should be considered-tremendous energy needed to process shale (not an easy task) and the environmental costs, like the permanent destruction of the land above the shale and the CO2 that will be added to the atmosphere, accelerating global warming.

More efficient energy use, less energy use, and new development of environmentally friendly alternative energy all should be done first. The most efficient and clean energy is the energy we don't waste.

posted on Wed, 10/29/2008 - 9:46am

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