Commentary By Ron Beasley
We have known for decades that there is lots of kerogen - pre oil - in the Green River formation in the western US. There have been attempts to convert the kerogen into a usable/affordable energy source and they all have failed. Over at the Agonist Steve Hynd reports that magic ponies and unicorns never die.
Quite a few rightwing commentators are making waves today about a Government Accountability Office statement which says (PDF) that:
The Green River Formation�an assemblage of over 1,000 feet of sedimentary rocks that lie beneath parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming�contains the world�s largest deposits of oil shale. USGS estimates that the Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil, and about half of this may be recoverable, depending on available technology and economic conditions. The Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, estimates that 30 to 60 percent of the oil shale in the Green River Formation can be recovered. At the midpoint of this estimate, almost half of the 3 trillion barrels of oil would be recoverable. This is an amount about equal to the entire world�s proven oil reserves.
Keep in mind this is not the "tight" oil they are getting from the Balkan formation via fracking or the oil sands in Canada. It is 3 trillion barrels of oil that no one could afford. The first thing we have to look at is "energy return on investment" EROI - how much energy you have to spend compared to how much energy you get. This alone makes Green River formation kerogens uneconomical.
And then there is the water. The Green River formation is located in an area that already has water shortages. Even if we ignore the probable ground water contamination issues it will still require 5 to 10 barrels of water for each barrel of oil.
We have known of this resource for decades and Royal Dutch Shell snd Chevron have made attempts to exploit this resource with no economic success.
There are environmetal concerns as well but since it will never be economical that doesn't concern me very much.
This is entirely political. One third of the Green River formation is on private land and when that is developed economically we can talk about government interference.