Oil Shale, a century-old science fiction story
June 2, 2011 6 Comments
The shale covered a large area and the state oil experts declare that promised development of the deposits will mark a new era in oil production of the country.
– Pittsburgh Press, October 6, 1916
With Americans struggling to pay the high price at the pump, some elected officials, industry lobbyists, and oil and gas companies are pointing to oil shale as the answer to our nation’s energy issues.
They would have us believe the West sits on a sea of oil shale bigger than Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves that can be easily developed into petroleum to provide Americans with cheap energy for decades to come. The problem with that story is that it is pure science fiction. Oil and gas companies have failed to develop oil shale as a commercial energy resource in the U.S. In fact, oil shale has been the fuel that is “just around the corner” for the last century.
The Checks and Balances Project used LexisNexis and Google News Archives to review oil shale coverage from 1910 through 1980. Our search turned up over 84,000 articles from U.S. newspapers. Many of the quotes in those articles are similar to what we hear from industry today. Oil shale is hailed as an energy boom and the next big thing in domestic fuel. When energy prices spike, politicians and energy industry representatives like to point at oil shale as a cure-all. Yet oil shale has still never been developed as a viable energy source.