In the course of writing an entry for schaffer v udall, we discovered that Mark Udall's brother Randy had written one of the most deceptive documents that we had ever seen. It's purpose is to make it seem as though it won't be profitable for the big oil companies to recover oil by presenting facts and then drawing the strangest conclusions possible from them.
The DNA that we are referring to is the Udall family DNA which seems to predispose its inheritors to wild deviations from the truth in order to convince the unwary of the correctness of their cause. We regularly write about it under the label "Udall as a Liar" at schaffer v. udall.
The Randy Udall piece is called "The Illusive Bonanza: Oil Shale in Colorado" He subtitled it "Pulling the Sword from the Stone." In his first section he admits that oil shale will be a factor in the future US energy equation:
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.
One percent of US energy is nothing to scoff at but is very likely a gross underestimate. The history of environmentalist extremist energy projections is that they are not afraid to under estimate the benefits of fossil fuel by factors of ten and twenty times. If Randy Udall is willing to admit 1%, the number is more likely 10% or more.
Big Blue Lie Machine Lie number 1 Oil Shale has to be mined to be turned into fuel. Randy Udall admits that Shell Oil plans to extract it by creating a frost wall, getting rid of the water inside the wall, heating the rock to 700 degrees for three years and then taking out the resulting oil and gas as oil and gas. He also admits that there are trillions of tons of oil shale worth trillions of dollars. Why, then does he try to make a big deal of how little relative energy oil shale has if the final product is oil and gas? It is the Big Blue Lie Machine in action. He is building a strawman to tear down.
Oil shale has many apologists. They suggest that technology is lacking. They suggest that cheap oil is to blame. Ever confident, they suggest that “its day will come, just wait.” Yet the day never comes. Why has shale failed to deliver? The primary explanation is that oil shale is a very poor fuel. Compared to the coal that launched the Industrial Revolution or the oil that sustains Western Civilization, oil shale is a pathetic pretender, the dregs. When it comes to energy, quality is everything. Quality can be measured in various ways—cost, convenience, and cleanliness all matter—but energy density trumps them all. Coal seams a few feet thick are worth mining, sometimes at depths exceeding 1,000 feet, because coal contains lots of energy. Dense forms of energy like coal and crude oil invented prosperity; they are industrial oxygen. If coal is good, oil is better. Petroleum contains 50% more energy than the best coal, twice that of the hardest oak. There’s a lot of “grunt” in a gallon of gasoline, enough to propel a 3,000 pound car thirty miles.
If crude oil is king, oil shale is a pauper. Pound per pound, oil shale contains just one-tenth the energy of crude oil, one-sixth that of coal, and one-fourth that of recycled phone books. Shale outcrops are common in Colorado, but in prehistoric times the Utes did not use it for heat; why bother when you could gather pine or juniper instead? In poor countries, millions of people heat their homes with dried manure. Dung cakes have four times more energy than does oil shale. Oil shale is a fossil fuel—but just barely. Searching for appropriate low-calorie analogues, we turn to foodstuffs, the realm of Weight Watchers. Oil shale is said to be “rich” when it contains 30 gallons of petroleum per ton. An equal weight of granola contains three times more energy. The “vast,” “immense,” and “unrivaled” deposits of shale buried in Utah and Colorado have the energy density of a baked potato. If someone told you there were a trillion tons of tater tots buried 1,000 feet-deep, would you rush to dig them up? Take a memo, Senator. Oil shale has one-third the energy density of Cap’n Crunch, but no one is counting on Kellogg to become a major energy producer soon. In other words, no one is drilling in the cereal aisle. The mystery is not that we lack an oil shale industry—it’s why we’ve spent billions trying to develop one.
As we said elsewhere, the final product is oil and gas, not an unusable rock. There is so much oil and gas in these rocks that it is estimated that one million barrels of oil can be extracted from each acre of oil shale. That solves the "mystery" in the last sentence of this Big Blue Lie. A million barrels of oil is worth about $100 million. Ten acres is worth a billion dollars. Before long, it starts to add up to real money.
Udall's document is a treasure trove of lies. There will be several more parts to come.