Shale oil comes from cooking oil shale — not from fracking shale containing "tight oil," which is ordinary oil that is trapped in shale. Tight oil is what is causing today's oil boom, shale oils is the stuff Jimmy Carter was after and Newt Gingrich is proclaiming to be the wave of the future.
Tight oil comes out of the rock on its own, once the rock is fractured. But shale oil is hydrocarbons that have not been naturally cooked long enough to turn into oil and so we have to finish the cooking process for nature. This requires a lot of energy, and most ways of doing it make a far greater mess of the land than does fracking.
Why Does It Matter?
Newt's second point is "End the ban on oil shale development in the American West." That's the dirty expensive oil Jimmy Carter was after. And yes there's a lot of it. But at $2.50/gallon of gas it's not profitable. The reason Big Oil is after shale oil is because they know the world price of oil is likely to average over $100/barrel. So the real plan is this:
- Cook the oil out of Western shale.
- Sell it at World Market prices.
- Huge profits for Big Oil.
America takes the environmental hit. Big Oil takes the profits, the whole world gets slightly gas prices, and a bigger risk of climate change. (Yes this will drive the price of oil down a bit, compared to what -- $120?) So the question we're facing is, will the voters fall for yet another energy scheme from the politicians?