Rocky Mountain News: Columnists: "Since 1981, Shell researchers at the company's division of 'unconventional resources' have been spending their own money trying to figure out how to get usable energy out of oil shale. Judging by the presentation the Rocky Mountain News heard this week, they think they've got it.
Shell's method, which it calls 'in situ conversion,' is simplicity itself in concept but exquisitely ingenious in execution. Terry O'Connor, a vice president for external and regulatory affairs at Shell Exploration and Production, explained how it's done (and they have done it, in several test projects):
Drill shafts into the oil-bearing rock. Drop heaters down the shaft. Cook the rock until the hydrocarbons boil off, the lightest and most desirable first. Collect them."
You might say, "So how is this bad? This is Great!!" And indeed, if you're concerned about the gas prices for the next decade or two, this is very good.
But here's what I think the big picture is: every bit of pain that we save ourselves in the next 30-40 years by methods like these will come back ten times worse (or more) when we really have exhausted every ounce of "black gold" that we can find.
Why? Because it'll make it that much easier for us to "put off" finding another, more viable, solution for the future. The global economy, or everybody's standard of living, will be dramatically affected by how the whole energy situation works out. So it's a pretty important area to focus on - nothing comes for free, and right now we're using vastly more energy than at any point in mankind's history. We need to give some real serious thought and resources towards managing that, or we could put ourselves in some real science-fiction-like scenarios by the end of the century.