December 03, 2008

What East Coast Pundits Miss about Oil Shale

Have you noticed how most of the pundits touting Colorado oil shale as our energy salvation live east of the Mississippi River?

I'm talking about you, Glenn Reynolds, there in soggy Tennessee.

They just do not understand the water issues wrapped up with the shale issues. You can't just snap your fingers and create more than 300,000 acre-feet of water in the over-appropriated upper Colorado River basin, as the Colorado Independent explains.

“A dominant finding is oil shale development, along with its associated power production, could require tremendous amounts of water, up to 378,300 acre-feet annually,” concludes the Energy Development Water Needs Assessment, which was funded by grants from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

So if you take the water for shale development, which ox gets gored? Denver? Las Vegas? Los Angeles? Phoenix?

UPDATE: Welcome, View from the Porch readers. For more education on Western water issues, visit Coyote Gulch. To see what we mean by "river" in the Southwest, go here.


mdmnm said...

Well, without wishing anyone ill, or thirsty, can I vote LA, then Las Vegas Nevada?
Nearly 400k acre-feet a year is quite a chunk.

Tam said...

That's easy: Los Angeles.

Next question?


Anonymous said...

So, why hasn't the west coast spent all that tax money they've collected over the years to build desalination plants, run by nuclear plants, to provide clean water to all those people who've *chosen* to live there, rather than claiming that so much of the upstream water from the Colorado belongs to the LA basin - and lately, oh, the rest of the country is going to pay for all the things they *have* spent it on, too.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Alas, Tam, Los Angeles probably has the most political clout.

The trouble is, folks from the East and South just are not used to thinking of water as a finite resource, fought over by lawyers.

Unknown said...

Pity NYC is not a candidate...


Anonymous said...

I refer you to this:

and this:

We soggy Tennesseeans have a VERY good idea for how finite a resource our water is.


Captcha: "jezest" - a type of shower soap?

Chas S. Clifton said...


Tennessee recently experienced with what is normal and constant west of the 105th meridian, in terms of water issues.

I spent a little bit of high school living near Sewanee -- by Southwestern standards, it was soggy.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link.

Coyote Gulch

Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, the other big problem we face is how to dispose of excess water from coal bed methane production. I foresee a huge Apollo-like program to attempt to find solutions to both these problems. The EPA will declare both problems unsolvable and hence, illegal crimes against nature.

Anonymous said...

OH NOES!! USE WATER??? What would Gaia think? Of course it would be better to use X times MORE water to grow FOOD that is then poorly converted to "fuel". BTW, current in situ technology uses VERY LITTLE WATER to extract oil from shale.

OH WELL, another rant wasted.

Chas S. Clifton said...

@Anonymous 9:38

I assume that you are referring to ethanol.

Actually, both ethanol's and oil shale's advocates seem to be struggling with the issue of whether or not more energy is expended in creating the fuel than that fuel will yield.

I have not seen conclusive proof that oil shale is a net gainer, but I am waiting.

Tam said...

I'm not entirely convinced that a wind turbine generates more kW over its service life than it consumes during its construction...

Chas S. Clifton said...


Since turbines are manufactured and as manufactured machines would benefit from economies of scale, I would doubt that the energy equation would tip against them -- if enough were built.

But I am not a mechanical engineer.

What's the useful life of a turbine? Ten years? Fifteen?

Anyway, thanks for the link, which sent my visitor count to giddy heights.