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Senate GOP: “balance” = climate-destroying shale, RNC: “balance” = “a climate in crisis”

By Joe Romm  

"Senate GOP: “balance” = climate-destroying shale, RNC: “balance” = “a climate in crisis”"

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humpty2.gif“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

The Republican National Committee just launched an ad called, “Balance” claiming we have “a climate in crisis,” as noted here. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the Climate Destruction Gas Price Reduction Act of 2008 late last month that would repeal the congressional moratorium on shale development. In a press release today titled, “A Balanced Approach to Reducing Gas Prices for Americans,” he claimed that “Our western states are sitting on a sea of oil three times as large as the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia.”

Actually, the shale ain’t a sea of anything. It is a clay-like rock, organic marlstone, containing very little energy — per pound, it has one tenth the energy of crude oil, one fourth that of recycled phone books, one-third that of Cap’n Crunch. Turning it into a usable liquid fuel would require a massive amounts of energy and probably release more carbon dioxide than even liquid coal.

The best analysis of the climate risks of unconventional oil, “Risks of the oil transition,” coauthored by the late Alex Farrell, has an outstanding figure that shows that from a climate perspective, shale is probably worse than liquid coal (which is pretty damn bad) –

shale.jpg

[X-axis is the range of potential resource in billions of barrels. Y-axis is grams of Carbon per MegaJoule of final fuel.]

Shell is currently exploring the possibility of converting shale to oil while it is in the ground, rather than mining out large volumes of energy-poor material. Converting shale to oil in this manner requires as much as 1200 megawatts of generating capacity to produce 100,000 barrels per day (see here). The total cost of the facility, including the generation plant, may be in the range of $7-10 billion. If that were fossil-based electricity, we would be generating millions of tons greenhouse gases every year just to create a fuel that itself would spew more greenhouse gases into the air when burned in a car. But then it would be equally nonsensical to use renewable energy to make shale, when we critically needed that zero-carbon power to displace coal electricity.

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

Which is to be master? That is the question. With so much energy disinformation rampant from the conservatives and the energy companies, how is the general public ever going to become informed on these issues?

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12 Responses to Senate GOP: “balance” = climate-destroying shale, RNC: “balance” = “a climate in crisis”

  1. Uosdwis says:

    Shale may have very little energy density, but burning Cap’n Crunch would be a waste of a delicious breakfast cereal! Probably hell on your fuel injectors, too.

  2. Earl Killian says:

    Let’s see, the 1200 MW input alone (forget about the shale energy) could fuel EVs driving 35 billion miles a year. Using the 100,000 barrels a day, the resulting gasoline from using this 1200 MW to extract hydrocarbons from shale would result in just 16 billion miles a year, and of course would be atmosphere destroying in the process.

  3. jcwinnie says:

    Speaking of a great fall and fuel injection to hell, in rebutting the RNC with facts, Chief Joseph is missing the conspicuous price tags worn by the policy makers.

    Probably just as effective as a slide showing a piece of the pie chart with percent campaign contributions from penguins and polar bears.

    “Shale, Shale, the gang is all aboard the Peabody Death Train” is about heating up the Syngas Spin rather than an agenda of any Western state.

  4. Charlie Peters says:

    What was the cause of death of Alexander Farrell, 46, expert on alternative fuels?

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/04/18/BAOK1087DP.DTL

  5. For factual information on oil shale please log on the web site given above and/or email us.
    Glenn Vawter

  6. John Hollenberg says:

    > For factual information on oil shale please log on the web site given above and/or email us.

    I think we have all the facts we need to determine that oil shale is very bad for global warming… unless you disagree with the article re: amount of GHG released from its production. If so, how about citing independent studies that address this issue.

  7. Graeme Bird says:

    Shale and other carbon resources would be more viable if we had saturation nuclear power.

    Liquifying shale is in no way bad for the environment. Since the output will be basically just CO2. And as all evidence attests CO2 is good for the biosphere.

    The conclusion that CO2 is good for the biosphere is unassailable if at once we decide to go by scientific evidence. Rather than relying on tribal fantasies and lies.

  8. Brewster says:

    Thanks, Graeme, I needed a good laugh before bedtime..

    I won’t even ask what “scientific evidence” you have that CO2 is “good for the biosphere”. Your reply is perfect as is…

  9. John Hollenberg says:

    > The conclusion that CO2 is good for the biosphere is unassailable if at once we decide to go by scientific evidence.

    The first “PRO-Global Warming” stance I have seen on climateprogress! Joe’s quote from a recent article certainly applies here:

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

  10. Sam Borgeson says:

    I was one of Alex’s students in the Energy and Resource Group and can tell you that on the analysis of unconventional fuels, he always credited and deferred to Adam Brandt, his co-author on “Risks of the oil transition” and other related papers. Adam’s work is ongoing, and as we see from this and other political theater, extremely relevant to our current situation. I encourage anyone interested in the likely impacts of unconventional fuels to look at his work. He is one of many exceptional scholars who are continuing the work that Alex left unfinished. http://abrandt.berkeley.edu/

  11. kenlevenson says:

    Off topic, a bit, and not meaning to stir the pot (really) but….it seems to me the Humpty Dumpty principle is at work regarding the word “breakthrough”….at a certain Institute, no?