Monday, August 29, 2005

Energy self-sufficiency in two easy steps 

Want a real war for oil? Invade Canada:
"The oil sands give Canada one of the single greatest advantages of any state in the Western world," says Paul Chastko, a University of Calgary historian who recently published a book called Developing Alberta's Oil Sands. "It gives Canada the ability to supply all of North America for the next 50 years without touching a drop of imported oil"...

The National Energy Board estimates there are approximately 1.6 trillion barrels of crude bitumen saturating the ground in northern Alberta. Bitumen -- a form of heavy, thick oil laden with sulphur and deficient in hydrogen -- can be refined into synthetic crude oil to make everything from gasoline to plastics. It is the lifeblood of every industrialized economy. According to the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, about 178 billion barrels of bitumen are economically recoverable using existing technology -- enough to produce more than 150 billion barrels of crude.

If these estimates are accurate, Canada's oil reserves rank second behind only Saudi Arabia's 260 billion barrels. And there are many who believe the current oil sands assessments understate the true potential here. The AEUB has projected that rising prices and improved technology could ultimately push the oil sands yield close to 300 billion barrels, which would make it the richest petroleum field in the world.
Another interesting aspect of the situation is the potential for the oil wealth to drive an even bigger wedge between the red state of Alberta and the politically dominant blue states of eastern Canada. I’m not predicting a break-up of Canada anytime soon, but it certainly would be good to see a bigger and louder voice for Canada’s Texas and other central and western states, which are more “American” in outlook than the rest of the “European” Canada.

In other energy-related news, this time closer to home:
Montana acquired 533 million tons of federal coal near Ashland three years ago. A private company owns more than that interspersed checkerboard fashion among the state's holdings.

Both would like to develop that high-quality coal. And there are others, too, who have ideas for turning the coal into energy, revenue and profits.

Because the price of oil is at unheard- of levels, and the United States needs alternative energy supplies, Gov. Brian Schweitzer has targeted an old/new process to turn the coal into diesel and jet fuel…

Montana has 120 billion tons of state and federal coal reserves under its surface, mostly in Eastern Montana. Schweitzer said 115 billion tons of that coal is recoverable. He said using the Fischer-Tropsch method, one ton of coal would produce 1.5 barrels of diesel fuel. A barrel is 42 gallons.

"It would cost less that a $1 per gallon to make that diesel," he said.
We should learn to love oil price spikes – they are, after all, one of the great motors of innovation. The 1970s oil crisis has led to a whole range of energy-efficiency technologies being implemented throughout the developed world; the current one (although it’s arguably inaccurate to call it a “crisis”) should similarly lead to new explorations, new technologies, and increased efficiencies. In the end, all high prices contain within themselves the seeds of their own downfall.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?