You say oil shale, I say shale oil; let’s call the whole thing off

Apparently global climate change can have the disquieting effect of causing mild dyslexia among pro-business energy bloggers like Brian McGraw, who on last week mistook oil shale for shale oil.

Anyone in Colorado who remembers Black Sunday, May 2, 1982, when Exxon’s massive Colony oil shale project went bust on the state’s Western Slope knows that superheating kerogen to squeeze oil out of the shale rock and sand of the Green River Formation is not at all like the shale oil plays currently going on in North Dakota’s Bakken Formation or the Eagle Ford Shale play in south Texas.

McGraw was taking to task a report by the Checks and Balances Project that the Colorado Independent cited last week. It provided an historical overview of the false promises made by oil shale advocates since the early part of the last century. Oil shale production has never been proven commercially viable in the United States. Shale oil plays have proven quite lucrative in recent years.

Writing on – which is supported in part by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (Free markets and limited government) — McGraw on Thursday offered that, “Even if you assume the amount of recoverable oil is much less than projected, referring to shale oil as a ‘science fiction’ is laughably naive, to the point of willful ignorance.” The Checks and Balances report was entitled “Oil Shale, a century-old science fiction story.”

To his credit, McGraw on Friday corrected his blog after the error was pointed out: “The phrases ‘laughably naive’ and ‘willfull ignorance’ would seem to be more appropriately directed towards my own writing in this case.”

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail and Real Aspen.

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