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Independent Study: Oil Shale Is a Poor Energy Source
(press release)
Staff, Western Resources Advocates

BOULDER, CO – As the nation looks for new sources of fuel, one option being considered is oil shale. But a new report released today by Western Resource Advocates reveals that oil shale is no solution at all because it takes nearly as much energy to produce as it yields. With very little fuel to be gained by producing synthetic oil from oil shale, oil shale should be removed from serious consideration as an alternative to conventional crude oil.

The report “An Assessment of the Energy Return on Investment (EROI) of Oil Shale,” shows that oil shale’s EROI is extremely low. EROI is a comparison of the amount of energy that goes into a production process versus the amount of energy delivered by the process. As one of the lowest EROI fuel options out there, oil shale should be considered a marginal energy source.

According to report author Dr. Cutler Cleveland, a Professor of geography and environment at Boston University, the best scientific analysis suggests that the EROI for oil shale falls between 1:1 and 2:1 when internal energy is counted as a cost. Internal energy includes the energy produced during oil shale processing that is then consumed to further power that operation. An EROI of 1:1 means there is no energy “profit” from the investment of energy.

A low EROI is not oil shale’s only flaw. Oil shale production is water-intensive, leaving less water available for western farms and communities. Additionally, a Stanford University study found the large energy inputs that must go into oil shale production would lead to greenhouse gases emissions 20% to 75% larger than those from conventional crude oil.

“Westerners must understand the trade-offs they will make if public lands and resources are signed over to private companies in the hopes of making oil shale a transportation fuel source,” said Karin P. Sheldon, President, WRA. “In exchange for a fuel that may not produce more energy that it consumes, we may be forced to bear the costs to our water supplies, the air we breathe, and to our lands,” said Sheldon.

Dr. Cleveland’s report shows the EROI for oil shale is considerably less than the EROI of conventional crude oil, both at the wellhead and at the refined fuel stages of processing.

Even under marginal production conditions, conventional crude oil still generates a significantly larger energy surplus than oil shale – approximately 20:1.

“Before expending public or private dollars to support any future commercial development projects, the public has a right to know about the low return on investment for oil shale,” said Sheldon. “Cleveland’s analysis is proof that the impacts to the West would far outweigh any perceived benefits,” said Sheldon.

To read the report, go to:
An executive summary of the repost can be seen at

Western Resource Advocates is a regional non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting the West’s land, air, and water. Visit us online at
(2 Aug 2010)

Scientists Cast Doubt on Claims BP Spill’s No Threat to Gulf

Erika Bolstad, Renee Schoof and Margaret Talev, McClatchy Newspapers
Washington – Many scientists say they’re skeptical of a widely publicized government report Wednesday that concludes much of the oil that gushed from BP’s leaking well is gone and poses little threat to the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the “vast majority” of the 4.9 million barrels released into the Gulf has either evaporated “or been burned, skimmed, and recovered from the wellhead, or dispersed.”

“I’m suspect if that’s accurate or not,” said Ronald Kendall, the director of the Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University and one of the scientists who testified Wednesday at a congressional hearing about the need for more research into the composition and use of chemical dispersants to break up the oil in the Gulf…
(4 Aug 2010)

Ecuador pledges no oil drilling in Amazon reserve

Ecuador has agreed to refrain from drilling for oil in a pristine Amazon rainforest reserve in return for up to $3.6bn (£2.26bn) in payments from rich countries.

Under a pioneering agreement signed with the United Nations, the oilfields under the Yasuni reserve will remain untapped for at least a decade.

The money is about half of what Ecuador would make by selling the oil.

The Yasuni reserve is one of the most biodiverse regions on earth…
(4 Aug 2010)

Deepwater oil drilling moratorium job-loss picture is getting clearer

David Hammer, The Times-Picayunevia
In the wake of the largest oil spill in U.S. history, stark battle lines were drawn, with both sides taking up simplistic talking points to hijack the complex debate about the future of deepwater oil drilling.

These oil drilling pipes were photographed July 28 on the Murphy Front Runner deepwater oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Supporters of President Barack Obama’s six-month drilling moratorium were generally shocked to find out that most residents of coastal Louisiana — the people most devastated by BP’s disastrous handling of an exploration well 50 miles from Venice — appeared more angry at Obama for shuttering rigs than they were at BP.

Meanwhile, rig workers, supply ship crews and Louisiana political leaders warned of a total economic meltdown. They were sure that the moratorium would send the unemployment rate in Lafourche Parish from among the nation’s lowest to the highest, in very short order. Both sides of the debate have been forced to moderate themselves as the numbers and realities have become clearer.

…But no mass layoffs have been announced by rig operators or their contractors. And a year ago, without a moratorium, Baker Hughes and other offshore energy companies did let thousands of employees go because of simple market forces, such as falling oil prices.

The deepwater oil rig Noble Danny Adkins was photographed July 28 in the Gulf of Mexico.

It also now seems the anti-drilling drumbeat in the initial weeks after the accident didn’t take deep root in the rest of the country: A Bloomberg poll last month showed overwhelming opposition to the moratorium nationwide, and there are emerging signs the administration could be willing to relax the ban before the six months are up…
(3 Aug 2010)

We Fight for the Oil We Need to Fight for the Oil

Emily Badger, Miller-McCune
Researchers and government regulators have long felt they had the life cycle analysis of oil pretty well covered. Crude must be extracted and shipped across the ocean in supertankers or pumped underground through pipelines. It’s processed in a refinery, then transported again and ultimately burned in your car.

Each step contributes to the footprint of a commodity that generates greenhouse gases well beyond what spits out a tailpipe in the end.

Now a pair of researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln want the Environmental Protection Agency to include an oft-ignored indirect source of oil’s emissions: the military protection essential to getting the stuff here from the Middle East.

Other studies have estimated the U.S. military’s expense defending the volatile regions of the world that produce fuel for American cars and the shipping lanes that tankers travel to get here. The National Defense Council Foundation has pegged the U.S. military subsidy to protect the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf at about $50 billion a year. A RAND report last year estimated 12-15 percent of the annual defense budget could be saved “if all concerns for securing oil from the Persian Gulf should disappear.”

UNL researchers Adam Liska and Richard Perrin go one step further, calculating the emissions from these military activities that they say should be considered in policy discussions weighing the footprint of gasoline against biofuels. They figure that protecting oil transport in the Persian Gulf produces the equivalent of 34.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year.
(27 July 2010)
The article is available here.

Oil company, law enforcement block media access to public sites hit by Michigan oil spill

Nina Bhattacharya, Climate Progress
As Yogi Berra said, it’s déjà vu all over again. BP worked hard to keep journalists away from their disaster (see ” The pictures BP doesn’t want you to see“).

Now, in the wake of its own oil spill, Enbridge is apparently learning from the best, which is to say the worst, TP reports:

Since Enbridge Inc.’s disastrous pipeline leak gushed 1 million gallons of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River last week, reports suggest that Enbridge officials and law enforcement are blocking the media from public spill sites. The Michigan Messenger reports that yesterday evening, its journalists were denied access — again — “to a key oil spill site after attempting to record video of the Kalamazoo River.” A wildlife group is also reporting similar findings from its volunteers. The Michigan Messenger’s Todd Heywood elaborates:

However, when Messenger arrived at the site a security officer working for Enbridge approached and said no media was allowed. Messenger requested to speak to the Calhoun County Deputy Sheriff who was at the site. That deputy cleared Messenger’s request with an official from Enbridge, but they would only allow the filming of 30 seconds of video. During the time Messenger was waiting to speak to the deputy, a citizen video crew approached, and was turned back by the security officer.

These reports mirror similar problems involving BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Although BP COO Doug Suttles called such reports “untrue,” numerous media reports documented BP’s efforts to block journalists from covering the oil spill and speaking with clean-up workers.
(2 Aug 2010)