Don’t fear-monger over carbon-based energy

Janine Fitzgerald should stick to sociology, instead of trying to lecture the rest of us about her environmental beliefs about oil shale and tar sands (Herald, March 10). If Fitzgerald also has a minor in economics, she wasted her time, as her arguments were disjointed and overly simplistic. People should convey what they want in plain English instead of trying to dazzle us with their superior intelligence and reasoning.

Yes, we all know that shallow, 100-barrel-a-day wells are a thing of the past. Yes, we all understand that it costs more today for a deep, 20-barrel-a-day well. Fitzgerald thinks we must not pursue oil shale or tar sands because the return on investment is so low.

This argument is hogwash and based on her wish to shut down oil and gas production, and move on to “clean” energy. Even with government subsidies for ethanol, the energy-returned ratio is only 1.07 to 1.70, according to an August 2010 article by David Murphy in the journal Environment, Development and Sustainability. Keep that ethanol figure in mind as you compare it to Fitzgerald’s tar-sand figure of 1.54.

Wow, it seems that tar-sand oil is at least as efficient as ethanol, right? Well, maybe not, maybe it’s even better because tar-sand oil has about the same energy-returned ratio as solar, according to a chart and article in the January 2011 issue of Mother Earth News by John Gulland.

So where did Fitzgerald get her figures? I am not a professor but feel it’s important to footnote claims so people can check them out themselves rather than just throw a lot of official-sounding “facts” at people and hope you can persuade them to abandon all fossil-fuel development.

The bottom line is that we will run out of carbon-based sources in the future, but you can’t just build windmills and solar farms and solve our energy problems. How about less fear-mongering by Fitzgerald and others like her and more facts: that we will have a gradual transition from carbon-based energy.

Arthur Wyman

Durango

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