"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Are We The "New Middle East"?

Oh, boy. Oil has hit over $70.00 a barrel, and gas is $3.00 a gallon in many places. Demand in China is speeding up at a ferocious rate.

We're in for it.

Or are we?

Hey, folks, guess what? Right here in the good ol' U.S. of A., in our own west,we have more oil than all other proven reserves on the planet - more than a TRILLION barrels. Senator Orrin Hatch has said "The amounts of oil are staggering. Who would hae guessed that in just Colorado and Utah, there is more recoverable oil than in the Middle East?"

All this oil lies beneath the Green River Formation, a barren stretch of land in portions of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

The Rand Corporation, a public policy think tank, says that this small region can produce three million barrels of oil per day, and that's a conservative estimate. The U.S. Department of Energy thinks that the eventual output could be ten million barrels a day.

Just for the fun of it, here are some comparative figures between what we have and what some other countries have:

1) 8 times as much as Saudi Arabia
2) 18 times as much as Iraq
3) 21 times as much as Kuwait
4) 22 times as much as Iran
5) 500 times as much as Yemen

Now isn't that special!

All this oil is trapped in oil shale under 16,000 square miles of rock and sand. When heated, crude oil bubbles out.

There are other places that also have oil shale, but they are few and far between; China, for example, has been using oil shale since 1929. Estonia's economy is dependent on oil shale - over 90% of its electricity is powered by shale oil, and it is one of that country's chief exports. In 1991, Brazil built the world's largest oil shale facility, and they've already produced more than 1.5 million tons of oil to make high quality transportation fuels. Jordan, Morocco, and Australia have recently announced plans to utilize their shale oil resources. Alberta, Canada, has some shale oil too, and is currently extracting it. The "shale oil age" is about to begin, and the good ol' USA need no longer make nice with the enemy.

Here are some 2005 oil shale resource figures from the U.S. Department of Energy:

1) U.S. - 72.0% of the world supply of oil shale
2) Brazil - 5.4%
3) Jordan - 4.2%
4) Morocco - 3.5%
5) Australia - 2.1%
6) China - 1.5%
7) Estonia - 1.1%
8) Israel - 0.3%

Now, that's REALLY special!

Extracting the oil out of this reserve hasn't been economically feasible until recently, so the government - which owns 80% of the land it's in - has kept it for a "rainy day."

Well, when oil hit $50.00 a barrel and no end to price increases was in sight, the rainy day had finally arrived. On August 8th, 2005, President Bush signed into law a mandate to extract it: The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which calls for the opening phases of extraction. Of the two trillion barrels of proven oil in the Green River Formation, between 800 billion and 1.2 trillion barrels are recoverable - the amount we can get out and use with current technology.

The beauty of the whole thing is that just as oil prices were hitting all-time highs, the extraction technology had drastically improved, making extraction almost cheap. Until now, the cost was prohibitive compared to buying Middle East etc. oil. For the past five years, one experimental extraction method has been able to produce oil for about $25.00/barrel.

When President Bush signed The Energy Policy Act of 2005, dozens of companies came forth with plans; six were ultimately selected to be given 160 acres of land each to test their oil shale extraction methods for commercial production. Today, three remain in the running.

The U.S. Federal News Service says that the winning company wiould be responsible for launching America's first commercial oil shale operation and production, "...leading the way to more than two trillion barrels of oil shale deposits in the Green River Formation."

Now here are some more delicious figures from the U.S. Department of Energy for the total oil reserves from all sources in some countries:

1) Saudi Arabia - 261.8 billion barrels
2) Iraq - 112.5 billion
3) UAE - 97.8 billion
4) Kuwait - 96.5 billion
5) Iran: - 89.7 Billion
6) Qatar - 15.2 billion
7) Oman - 5.5 billion
7) Yemen - 4.0 billion
8) Syria - 2.5 billion

TOTAL: 685.5 billion

Now for the U.S:

1) Shale oil - 1000.00 billion barrels
2) Coal oil - 500.00 billion
3) Pet. coke - 0.15 billion
4) oil reserves - 22.7 billion
5) EOR oil - 32.0 billion

TOTAL: 1.6 trillion

Up to now, we've had the impression that we were at the mercy of the likes of the Middle East, Hugo Chavez (CITGO is his property, just in case you feel like boycotting something), and Vincente Fox.

I guess not, huh?

Maybe we can invite all our "Oil Friends" to a performance of Toby Keith singing his great song, "How Do You Like Me Now?"

I confess, the thought gives me an enormous amount of petty pleasure!


  • At Thu Apr 20, 08:01:00 AM PDT, Blogger Eleanor © said…

    Oil companies will access these deposits now that the price of a barrel of oil is skyrocketing, guranteeing their profits. Notice that these lands are with the boundaries of the state of "Aztlan" that "indigenous separatists" want to claim for themselves. The separatist movements within the United States are very dangerous and could lead to Balkanization of the U.S. if we don't continuously remind Congress.

  • At Thu Apr 20, 08:52:00 AM PDT, Blogger Cubed © said…

    Good grief, Eleanor, you're right! I was so excited by the thought of all that oil under our control that I forgot about the Reconquistos!

    Unless we remember things like the Treaty of Hidalgo, signed by both Mexico and the United States in 1848, which put an end to the Mexican-American war (and for a price of $18,250,000 - about $627,500,000 in today's dollars - gave the United States indisputed ownership of California, Texas, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming), we could lose the Green River Formation and all that oil to Political Correctness.




  • At Thu Apr 20, 02:51:00 PM PDT, Blogger Always On Watch said…

    I've also heard of a cost-feasible way to convert what is in our trash dumps into usable fuel. Once oil hit $60 a barrel, that technology became a real possibility. I've seen no articles about this alternative source, but one of my techie friends assures me that the plan will work.

    Of course, the greenies are strangely silent about the information I just gave. Well, no surprise there. Green Lefties want to see the downfall of the United States.

  • At Fri Apr 21, 06:46:00 AM PDT, Blogger Moved Elsewhere said…

    Very good article. Canada also has enormous oil shale reserves. The picture is even brighter.

  • At Fri Apr 21, 08:31:00 PM PDT, Blogger Matthew Whiting said…

    Thank you for the numbers and thoughts. Shale Oil adds a tremendous amount of hope to our energy crunch. You've covered the supply side, but you also need to take a look at the demand for oil. (2005 was 85 mil. barrels a day). The IEA forecasts demand growth of 2.3% in 2005, (forecast taken from Over a Barrel by Tom Mast pg 41). The growth in demand alone for 2005 would be 1.9 mil. barrels/day. It takes less than 5 years to eat up the extra 10 mil. barrels a day in oil that the shale oil, (from the high number you gave). Demand is not likely to slow, if the oil can be found to meet it.

    See a couple of my blog entries for details:
    Supply/Demand for Oil and Suggestions For More Info
    Oil linked to nearly everything in the ecomomy


    Article on the extraction process from the Rocky Mountain News

    We need to take action on the demand side as well as supply.

    (On the trash dump comment - great idea, and it's being done but I would rather see things recycled instead of burned for energy)

  • At Sat Apr 22, 07:44:00 AM PDT, Blogger Cubed © said…


    Thank you very much for the links - I will go to them ASAP, and when I do, I will try to extract some material and publish it here.

    I do believe we are finally getting "energized" (cute pun, eh?) about this whole energy problem.

    We have allowed ourselves to be held hostage for far too long by those who are hostile to us. It would seem that our national security was not too high a price to pay for their oil. Perhaps the end of their power is now in sight.

    I really believe that increasing oil prices will start a whole cascade of changes, including recycling and the use of energy from a torrent of different sources.

    There is nothing quite like the free market to drive change via creativity and innovation!

  • At Sat Apr 22, 08:03:00 AM PDT, Blogger Cubed © said…


    "one of my techie friends assures me that the plan will work."

    Your techie friends are right on! There are oodles of ways to power our civilization - it's really very exciting, especially when you throw into the hopper the fact that our "friends" in the Middle East will no longer have such influence over our policies.

    When we lived in Guam, there was a plan to have energy generated by utilizing the temperature differential between the surface waters of the ocean (80 degrees F) and temperatures of deep waters (40 degrees F).

    Guam was chosen for this plan because 1) all its energy is supplied by imported oil, 2) because it sits right next to the Mariana Trench, thought to be the deepest spot in all the oceans of the earth, and 3) because of its tropical location around 800 miles north of the equator.

    Unfortunately, for reasons I am not familiar with, the experiment never took place, but the word was that Guam could have become energy independent if it had gone foreward.

    Another plan was floated while we were there too, and that was to establish a wind farm with generators made by a Swiss company. That never happened either.

    Certainly garbage could be an energy source (garbage was a real blight when we were out there, and there was a clean-up campaign with the motto involving Guam's "Gross" national product, and they weren't talking about money!

    Sun would be a marvelous resource, too.

    Maybe, with this increase in oil prices, some of these ideas will be revived.

    Out here where I live, sunshine is a part-time solution, wind is OK in some places, but one of our main industries is dairy. Getting rid of the dung is a real problem, but gases from cow dung have been successfully produced via bacterial digestion for a very long time.

    Seems to me that to use digestors for energy production would be a win-win situation. Some dairies already do it on a limited scale to provide energy for their own use.

    Keep up the pressure! Oil from shale, and energy from other sources are the way to get out from under the hostile influence of the Middle East, Mexico, and Venezuela!

  • At Sat Apr 22, 03:51:00 PM PDT, Blogger google_PEAK_OIL said…

    What the Rand report really said about 3mb/day from oil shale:
    "Under high growth assumptions, an oil shale production level of 1 million barrels per day is probably more than 20 years in the future, and 3 million barrels per day is probably more than 30 years into the future."

    Their most optimistic projection is a relative trickle of oil 30 years from now when we will be needing a flood. In case you haven't heard, the world is on the verge of a serious and growing imbalance between the supply and demand of oil. The growth of oil production, which has averaged a couple percent a year for well over a century, has slowed to a halt in the last couple years. The oil industry can no longer satisfy growing demand and soon production will begin to decline. This is due to an inevitable reality of oil production called "Peak Oil". Here is an introduction to some of the darker implications of this problem.

    The point is that if oil shale, tar sands, and all other oil alternatives are wildly sucessful, it will at best merely lower the rate of decline of the world's oil supplies. We are facing a future where we will have no choice but to use much less energy per person and our way of life will change dramatically to reflect that reality. Those who remain in denial of these harsh facts and do not prepare themselves for the coming changes will end up suffering far more than necessary.

  • At Sat Apr 22, 04:16:00 PM PDT, Blogger google_PEAK_OIL said…

    bad link above. Try this one:

    Life After the Oil Crash

  • At Sat Apr 22, 06:32:00 PM PDT, Blogger Cubed © said…

    Peak Oil,

    It will definitely take a while to take advantage of all that shale oil. Many people are pretty confident that under the pressure exerted by increasing prices, be they due to hostile intent or diminishing supplies, we will step up our efforts to create ever better ways to obtain it from what amounts to "oil in the bank."

    Other energy technologies will probably become more readily available under those same pressures. While oil will, for the foreseable future, be necessary for pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, plastics, etc, the use of oil as a primary source of energy will diminish greatly.

    We will doubtless have to experience some difficulties in order to "get serious" about the kinds of problems you cite, but once we wake up to them, the solution will be at hand.

  • At Mon Jun 14, 01:30:00 AM PDT, Blogger 蔥爆牛肉Frank said…

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