Monday, July 14, 2008

Obama and GOP Energy Arguments

I am going to probably annoy all my co-bloggers and most readers as well by saying that I think that Obama should just flip flop and agree to let states allow oil drilling offshore beyond a 50 mile limit, if they want to, granting this GOP policy line. While in 1969 near inshore spills ended up on beaches in Santa Barbara (triggering the nationwide ban), and there were oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Katrina, most such drilling would be relatively harmless, like that in the North Sea. Now, I am not claiming that such drilling would lower oil or gasoline prices or is any long or short term solution for US energy problems. It most definitely is not, and Obama clearly should continue to put the emphasis on conservation and better technologies as he is. However, as a strictly political matter it seems that a majority of Americans believe the GOP line on this that such drilling will help, and I fear that McCain will be able to sway some voters in certain crucial states by pushing this line, which has been picked up big time by the usual claque of commentators on Fox News and elsewhere, being endlessly and repeatedly pushed like a Big Lie.

Another line that is being pushed by these folks is that the "US has more oil than Saudi Arabia (!)" which suggests that "energy independence " might be viable, if we were only willing to go for it. The basis for such claims are the likely large amounts of shale oil the US has in western Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. However, such oil is most likely not producible at less than $95 per barrel, and I do not see the companies viewing it as sufficiently likely the price will stay above that to do it. There is also the very serious problem of enormous water requirements (and pollution resulting of multiple sorts), which are serious problems out there. Estonia is producing shale oil to get out from under reliance on the Russians, but I saw a report that they are using 91% of their water to do so. I find that number hard to believe, especially given that they have a lot of water, but even if that number is exaggerated quite a bit, it is a sign of how water-hungry shale oil production is. So, no, I see no reason for Obama to go along with that one at all.


Anonymous said...

The basis for such claims are the likely large amounts of shale oil the US has in western Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. However, such oil is most likely not producible at less than $95 per barrel

Hmm... had you seen this article on an Israeli process to do it more economically?

"Thanks to a technical breakthrough, it should be possible to extract fuel oil from the shale for less than $20 a barrel." said...


My link was not working, and maybe there is some breaktrough on this. However, there remains a very serious problem with the water requirement and the waste resulting, as well as the electicity input needed, unless this Israeli technique gets around those.

In WaPo this morning there was a column by Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar (D) noting that Pres. Bush is trying to do a "fire sale" on federal lands in the US west with shale oil. Salazar says there is no support in any of those states by newspapers or anybody else for any of this, partly due to the water issue and partly due to bad memories of the "Black Sunday" bust in 1982 the last time there was an effort to push shale oil. Salazar also notes that the oil companies are sitting on large amounts of private shale oil lands there, so they have plenty of opportunity to do it on their own if they think it is profitable. Although there is a little movement, they are not rushing at all. Salazar also says none of this could get seriously going until 2015 anyway, again having nothing to do with the current situation.

Steve Athearn said...

There's also a question about whether shale oil can be produced at an energy profit - if it costs more than one barrel of oil to produce one barrel of shale oil, then it is not worth producing whether the cost is $1/barrel or $1,000,000/barrel. And the claims about how much shale oil there actually is - which presumably is normally intended to suggest how much we could actually use - are complete nonsense without an answer to this basic question.

Myrtle Blackwood said...

What are the proposed fuel efficiency standards proposed by the Democrats?

Is there a weblink to a description of the Democrats program to replace fossil fuels as a major energy source?

I note that the US Democrats did not address these critical energy issues under the Clinton Administration. (Albeit things became much much worse under Bush).

The US Department of Energy Caters To The Needs Of The Oil And Fossil Fuel Industries, While
Ignoring Alternative Solutions To Energy Issues by Ralph Nader
Published on Monday, July 24, 2000 in the San Francisco Bay Guardian said...