Take suggestion with heap of salt | AspenTimes.com

Take suggestion with heap of salt

Dear Editor:Mike Mason’s suggestion (The Aspen Times, March 3) that we develop Colorado’s vast oil shale deposits is a chimera in need of vision correction.Organic marlstone does indeed contain large quantities of fossil carbon, but Mason’s solution is an answer to the wrong question. More carbon is not the answer – whether from “oil despots” (his term, not mine) or our own resources – since using existing carbon fuels more efficiently is far cheaper per barrel saved ($0 to $10) than the foreign or domestic oil barons can provide a new barrel ($25-$100).We already pour trillions of dollars into securing more carbon while denying that global warming is caused by human use of fossil fuels, and using 10-year-old “scientific” data that has recently been corrected to corroborate tropospheric warming is no defense (Hassol, March 7).Mason’s suggestion implies that we pepper oil shale lands with thousands of boreholes and lower a 500-foot-tall solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) stack down each hole to heat the surrounding rock to 600-900 degrees Fahrenheit. After two to three years of using surface fuel, each SOFC heater begins to yield about 30-40 barrels of kerogen “oil” while also generating a bit of surplus electricity and natural gas per day. Worse, we can build dozens of coal-fired power plants to heat the marlstone with giant toasters. Or, worse still, we can excavate billions of tons of shale and heat the stuff in surface retorts before we fill the surrounding canyons with (surprise!) billions of tons of hazardous waste rock.Oil shale hype comes in predictable waves every few decades, and this mega-technology “solution” should be taken with a big heap of salt. If there is any religion being displayed here it is by the folks who cannot discern unquestioned fealty to the oil gods from a life-sustaining future. Humanity is messing with the vital functions of a 6 quadrillion-ton atmosphere, and we need to get smart, not dumber on a grander scale. Where’s that shoe phone when we need it?Rick HeedeOld Snowmass

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