As Gov. Gary Herbert prepares today to stage the first of four statewide forums on Utah’s energy future, a Rocky Mountain environmental group has some advice: Forget oil shale and tar sands. Western Resource Advocates issued a 38-page report Tuesday on the energy and water inefficiency of either potential fuel source. The title: Fossil Foolishness: Utah’s Pursuit of Tar Sands and Oil Shale. The Boulder, Colo.-based legal and policy group commissioned a Boston University geographer to analyze the energy return on investment for oil shale. He determined that most research indicates that, at best, making fuel from the rock would generate twice the energy content of what it takes to produce. That compares to a 20-to-1 ratio or better for petroleum.
Additionally, the advocates insist, these potential fuel sources are too polluting and water intensive to win a place in Herbert’s vision for a clean-energy economy. They argue they also would require too many public subsidies to meet his test for market solutions. The Western Resource Advocates report cites state and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation estimates that Utah will exhaust its remaining share of Colorado River water by about 2020 — even without giving over any of it to new energy development. Utah’s potential for developing 634,000 barrels of oil a day by mining and then cooking oil shale would require somewhere between 90,000 and 150,000 acre-feet of water. An acre-foot, roughly 326,000 gallons, is about enough to supply two households for a year. While not armed with as much research about Utah’s tar sands, the environmental group believes that potential energy source faces similar efficiency issues. Salt Lake Tribune