Pros and Cons of Oil Shale

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There have been a few energy booms in the United States over the years and many of them have been associated with the oil shale industry. Unlike other fossil fuels, oil shale creates petroleum products by extracting oil out of shale deposits that are buried relatively close to the soil surface. With improving technology and better conversion processes, the world looks to be close to another oil shale boom. Is this something that we need to have? Or is it just another way to exploit the planet?

The Pros of Oil Shale

1. It eliminates foreign dependence on oil.
OPEC products are easily manipulated to create pricing gains on the world market for oil products. In turn, this affects any industry that uses petroleum in some way. Gasoline, plastics, and other every day supplies that the world uses comes from oil. With oil shale available, a country will need to depend less on OPEC to meet its needs.

2. It could be cheaper to produce.
Because there is less drilling involved in most instances, oil shale is generally going to be cheaper to produce per barrel than regular oil products once the technology has been developed to extract the product. This could mean overall cheaper oil-based products, including gasoline, for the foreseeable future.

3. It has less of an impact on the world.
Oil shale isn’t stored in vast reserves that must be accessed miles below the surface of the planet or out in the ocean. It’s requires much less drilling or fracturing than other energy resources, which means it has less of an overall impact on the local environment. This means a community can get the energy it needs, have good jobs, and be able to take care of the local habitats.

The Cons of Oil Shale

1. There’s no such thing as a free lunch in the oil industry.
There will be an impact to the local population base that is focus on oil shale. There will be increased truck traffic, more rigs traveling to sites, and even more methane in the local atmosphere as the tight oil is broken apart and then extracted.

2. It may lead to increases in seismic activity.
Drilling into oil shale to release its resources has been known to create seismic events in local communities that can simulate earthquakes. Although a lot of these tremors are generally mild in nature, earthquakes that are caused by this extraction process aren’t predictable in nature. A big one could hit before anyone could think to stop it.

3. Ground water has the potential to be contaminated.
There is always going to be a little bit of rogue oil that escapes from the shale extraction process. This oil has to go somewhere, which means that there is the chance that it can contaminate ground water supplies in the local area. Methane can even leak into the ground water from the extraction process and could cause problems for future generations.

Having oil shale available as a resource is generally thought of as a good thing. If it is managed properly and extraction processes are designed to protect the environment as best as possible, then it may be a profitable venture. Each community should weigh pros and cons like these to determine if allowing oil shale extraction is something they’d like to have happen in their backyards.