Shale Oil Comes with High Environmental Costs

by Project Censored
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With American oil supplies dwindling American oil companies and Canadian pipeline builders are using riskier and more environmentally detrimental practices to get at unconventional oil reserves. These oil reserves are located in the carbon rich sands in Canada, the Great Plains, and the Rocky Mountain West. It is estimated if extracted the oil in these locations it could power America for another century.

Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming hold oil shale reserves estimated to contain 1.2 trillion to 1.8 trillion barrels of oil, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, half of which the department says is recoverable. Eastern Utah alone holds tar sands oil reserves estimated at 12 billion to 19 billion barrels. The tar sands region of northern Alberta, Canada contains recoverable oil reserves conservatively estimated at 175 billion barrels, and with new technology could reach 400 billion barrels. Deep gas-bearing shales of the Great Plains, Rocky Mountain West, Great Lakes, Northeast, and Gulf Coast contain countless trillions of feet of natural gas.

Unfortunately, drilling for unconventional oil creates up to three times more CO2 and uses three to five times more water then traditional oil drilling. In communities from Wyoming to Texas, thousands of trucks now rumble down rural roads, carrying the huge amounts of water — 2 million to 4 million gallons per well — needed to free oil and natural gas from shales by blasting them with high-pressure fluids. In places such as North Dakota, which receives modest amounts of rainfall, local residents and conservationists worry that the energy boom will deplete aquifers.

Therefore, the importance of this new practice is that instead of finding ways to extract oil more efficiently or even getting away from fossil fuels, we are using practices which are more damaging to the environment.

Title: Pact with the Devil: A New Fossil Fuel Energy Boom May Be Our Ultimate Undoing

Source:, October 4th, 2010

Author: Keith Schneider


Faculty Evaluator: Laura Watt, Sonoma State University

Student Researcher: Jason Corbett, Sonoma State University