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The Illusive Bonanza: Oil Shale in Colorado “Pulling the Sword from the Stone”

Randy Udall and Steve Andrews, ASPO-USA via CORE
Buried beneath the ground in Colorado and Utah are a trillion tons of oil shale. Throughout the 20th century, men have tried and tried again to unlock the energy contained in these rocks. To date, all efforts have failed. But every twenty or thirty years, when energy prices spike, a new attempt is mounted. The persistence is understandable: whoever unlocks this resource would capture a trillion dollar prize.

But oil shale’s track record is not encouraging. The rocks are stubborn, an illusive bonanza, promising much, delivering little. Despite a century of trying and $10 billion in investment, oil shale currently provides an infinitesimal 0.0001 (or one ten-thousandth) of world energy. This paper explains why oil shale is so difficult to unlock, and why the “rock that burns” may never provide more than one percent of U.S. energy. …
(11 October 2005)
This is a nicely produced 5pg pdf with nice graphics, with links in ‘Further Reading’ to work of Jean Leherrere and Walter Youngquist amongst others; a valuable contribution to informing nonspecialist audiences. -LJ

Green Fuel Revolution a Challenge for Grain Sector

Christine Stebbins, Reuters via Planet Ark
CHICAGO – The multibillion-dollar US grain sector faces a major challenge as soaring oil prices boost demand for ‘green’ fuels, setting up a competitive tussle between energy refiners and traditional users of grain as food.

More and more, crops like corn and soybeans — now primarily used as animal feed and ingredients in hundreds of food products — will be used to make ethanol and biodiesel in coming years, in what could have a ripple effect in the form of higher food prices, some economists say.

“There are already some asking questions — should we be using basic foods when you have a hungry world?” said economist Chris Hurt at Purdue University. “When you start using food for fuel, it has some implications for food prices over time.”
(10 October 2005)
A good summary of developments in bio-fuels.

Cleaner coal? Activists now say it’s possible
‘Gasification’ praised, but hurdle becomes what to do with carbon emissions

A few years ago, any environmentalist who said coal had a place in the energy pie would have been considered a traitor by his or her peers. But a new technology that traps pollutants and emissions tied to global warming has made activists rethink that view.

The technology — called integrated gasification combined cycle, or IGCC — gasifies coal before it’s burned, cutting large quantities of pollutants harmful to human health, such as particulates, small components and mercury, from going up the smokestack.

But the process still costs 20 percent more than traditional coal burning, and that means a reluctance to buy in from industry, which is going through a boom. In the mid-1990s, not one utility had plans to build a coal-fired power plant in the United States. Now more than 120 have been proposed, more in the last 12 months than the last 12 years, according to the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Environmentalists say they’re willing to buy in — as long as the industry does as well, and goes a step further by also using the process to trap carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases that many scientists fear are contributing to global warming.
(10 October 2005)

Clean coal isn’t climate-friendly yet

Timothy Gardner, Reuters
NEW YORK – The world’s first substantially cleaner coal plants are being planned in the United States, but they may do little to cut global warming risks until the U.S. forms climate regulations, experts said.

U.S. utilities are planning a fleet of new coal plants amid bountiful domestic supplies of the fuel and all-time high natural gas prices.

But only a fraction of those will use the Holy Grail of clean coal technology — integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) — because of the high initial cost.

IGCC gasifies coal before it’s burned, cutting large quantities of pollutants harmful to human health, such as particulates, small components and mercury, from going up the smokestack.

“This is the way we need to go to preserve the coal option,” said John Stowell, environmental strategist at utility Cinergy Corp. (CIN.N: Quote, Profile, Research).
(7 October 2005)

Nuclear power quietly confident in energy debate

Jeremy Lovell, Reuters via ENN
SELLAFIELD, England — The nuclear power industry is quietly confident that the world is about to beat a path to its door in an increasingly desperate search for “clean” energy that doesn’t heat up the planet.

Soaring oil prices and new data on global warming — brought into sharp focus by devastating hurricanes in the United States — have heated up the nuclear debate and outraged the environmental lobby, which says nuclear power is not the answer.

China plans to invest some $50 billion to build around 30 new nuclear reactors by 2020, there are investment incentives in the United States and nuclear power was back on the agenda at a summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in July.

The nuclear industry now feels it is on a roll — 20 years after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor spread a cloud of radioactivity over Europe and dealt a severe blow to the reputation of a sector long denounced by environmentalists.
(11 October 2005)

Atlantic coal plant dirtiest, green group says

CP, Globe and Mail
Toronto — A New Brunswick coal-fired power plant is the dirtiest power generator of its kind in North America, says a national energy and environmental research group.

The report by Energy Probe says New Brunswick Power’s Grand Lake station has the worst acid gas pollution rate among more than 400 coal plants on the continent.
(9 October 2005)