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U.S. Backs Squeezing Oil From a Stone

Julie Cart, LA Times
Tucked into a ravine and hidden behind ridges standing like stony
sentinels is the site of Shell Oil Co.’s ultra-experimental, highly
anticipated 30-year project to unlock oil from vast underground beds of

Here, on this sweeping plateau in western Colorado, the Bush
administration has fixed its hopes for the next big energy boom: oil
shale, which the U.S. Department of the Interior praises as an “energy
resource with staggering potential.” Members of Congress have described
the region as the Saudi Arabia of oil shale.

Modern techniques greatly accelerate that process by cooking underground
rock. But some experts warn that the process could use more energy than
it yields, and conservationists and many local residents point to the
massive amounts of water it will consume and to the disturbances to
land, wildlife habitat and the lives of rural people.
(20 November 2005)
Kudos to Julie Cart for bringing up the all important energy returned
on investment concept. -AF

Fueling Growth Of a Humble Crop
Biodiesel Energy Industry Sparks Interest in Maryland Soybeans

Joshua Partlow, Washington Post
… [Soy] Already the great utility player of the vegetable league — used in soaps,
foams and salad dressing — the soybean is also the key ingredient for the
burgeoning biodiesel fuel industry. Thanks to hefty petroleum prices, a
tax incentive that began this year and a desire for cleaner-burning
alternative fuels, biodiesel plants are popping up across the country.

In such rural areas as Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, where farming is slowly waning, some officials are hoping that the biodiesel market for soybeans might help halt that slide.

In St. Mary’s, Jarboe has held public forums advocating biodiesel and is working to install a 1,000-gallon biodiesel tank for county-owned vehicles. “I think America needs to pull together to become energy-independent,” Jarboe said. “And anything we could do to help farmers generate more income from their crops would be a good thing.” But widespread biodiesel use is still hindered by its price: Pure biodiesel can cost 50 cents more per gallon than regular diesel.

While still a fraction of petroleum output, the National Biodiesel Board
expects that 75 million gallons of biodiesel — which also can be made
from other plant products and used cooking oils — will be produced
nationwide this year. That is three times the amount made last year and 38
times the production in 2000. In September, Minnesota became the first
state to require that all diesel sold in the state be mixed with at least
2 percent biodiesel….
(22 November 2005)

Alternative energy sources potentially rich in jobs

Scott Simpson, Vancouver Sun
Waning supplies of oil and natural gas will trigger the need for other sources of energy, a report says
British Columbia could open new industries and create hundreds of thousands of jobs by turning its attention to the world’s $200-billion power technology industry, a report submitted Monday to the B.C. government says.

The report says global climate change, and waning production of oil and natural gas, will throw a wrench into 90 per cent of the world’s present energy supply — describing a fossil fuel shortage as “imminent.”

B.C. residents are “solidly behind sustainability” but the province must increase its commitment to research and development of lower-cost alternate energy technology, the report from the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association says.

Wind, tidal and solar generation all offer significant opportunities.
(22 November 2005)

Green to the core? — Part 1
How I tried to stop worrying and love nuclear power

Judith Lewis, LA Weekly
… Like every magical property of nature that man has harnessed, radiation, Golden insists, is neither good nor bad. But what about nuclear power? Is it good or bad for the Earth? Neither? Five years ago, few of us would have bothered to ask. You were either for or, more likely, against nukes — if you thought about them at all.

But nuclear energy is seeping back into our public consciousness here in 2005, which may go down in history as the year in which global warming went from debunkable theory to indisputable fact for a significant part of the population, not simply because of our record-breaking hurricane season or the record-high temperatures in many cities around the world, but the reality that we regularly wake up to find evidence in our mainstream newspapers of an ecology gone awry due to warming seas and blistering droughts …
(11-17 November 2005 issue)