Fossil Energy Alternates: Shale Gas, Oil Shale, and Tar Sands

This is the fourth blogpost in the series, “Corn-Fed Cars: On the Road with Ethanol.”

While ethanol is the main subject of our blog series, we want to take a look at other so-called alternative energy sources that have been finding their way into the news lately. Shale gas, oil shales, and tar sands are actually not new—they have been long known, but little exploited. Rising oil prices are making us take another look at them.

Some people are saying this era is the end of “peak easy oil.” While new technologies have lowered costs of production and processing, it is only a matter of time until we are in “peak difficult oil.” Read More >

Fracking and Food Systems in the Time of Peak Oil

Philadelphia, September 2011Last Wednesday while executives from the Marcellus Shale Coalition met inside the Philadelphia Convention Center, I joined several hundred activists outside to rally against high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, aka “fracking.”  This relatively new natural-gas extraction process is at the center of a growing tension: the urgency to discover new, “unconventional” fuel sources to replace diminishing conventional fossil fuel supplies, and the process required to adequately assess potential environmental and human health risks before embracing new energy sources.

In some communities where fracking is underway, alarm has been raised because fracking has been implicated in public health risks, tainting drinking water supplies and more recently even poisoning animals raised for food.  (This chart explains fracking’s potential impacts on agriculture.) Read More >