Denver Post: Oil shale may be fool's gold

"Buried underground in western Colorado are a trillion tons of oil shale. For a century, men have tried and tried again to unlock this energy source. But the rocks have proved stubborn, promising much, delivering little." (link)
Burning coal for electricty to heat shale to get oil is stupid. They should use free electricity from zero-point "vacuum energy" perpetual motion generators. Oh, wait. If we had those, we wouldn't need oil from shale. Never mind.
From the article:  "Using coal-fired electricity to wring oil out of rocks is like feeding steak to the dog and eating his Alpo."

This reminds me of a comment by a big industrial gas user in Canada, "using natural gas to obtain oil from tar sands is like burning $100 bills to light candles."  

Having said that, the engineers at Shell claim that they think the underground oil shale process is energy positive. One of the things that was not mentioned in the Post article is that (at least insofar as I understand the process) they are going to freeze the underground perimeter of the sites in order to keep groundwater from leaching out the contaminants, i.e, a "freeze dam."  

That adds the energy to run the world's largest freezer requiring yet more electricity.

They are heating up cubic miles of dirt to 700 degrees and freezing the perimeter.

I love their great environmental concern about the groundwater but I think it's typical horseshit.  What they really want is to keep the oil from leaching away from their drill holes and also to keep groundwater from leaching IN to cool their heaters.

What are they going to do on the surface?  Foam it with heat insulating plastic?  Gets pretty cold in the winter.

My hunch says this dog won't hunt.  It's hilarious that we're even discussing such a ludicrous and 'on the face of it' Rube Goldberg proposal.

Hey LJR-

You were mighty quick on the draw with those comments - they're exactly what I was thinking .

I'm sure they will conveniently leave out the small matter of the energy required to make their big ole hockey rink but it will surely cost a fortune...

Hello Oil Drum - thanks for checking out my first comment on your site.

This is a link to a somewhat more positive report on oil shale on the Daily Reckoning (via the Energy Bulletin).  If this does work, we are going to see the biggest oil/mining boom in history.  However, for the time being, I'm in the skeptics' corner.

A similar project in Sweden that used excess hydropower during WW 2 to produce much needed oil via resistive heating and air chilled condensers seeped a tricle of oil for decades and perhaps it still seeps. My copy of the article where I read about it is still misplaced. :(

If you find it I would love to see it because my copy of the same (or similar) article is also misplaced.

What i remember is that it was a fairly thin and shallow layer of oil shale. They drilled a large number of holes on a square area and the perimeter holes where pumped to stop ground water from carrying away heat. Resistive heaters were inserted in holes along a line and the line were slowly advanced across the area, not manny meters per week. The transformers for the resistive heatrs and some support structyre were mounted on rails. This advancement of the heating front meant that heat leaking forward was ok and the ends of the lines were insignificant. the production were at the "tail" of the heating where the gasses bubbled up from the ground and were condensed in air cooled passive condensers.
Just for the edification of any of you who don't already know, the authors Randy Udall and Steve Andrews are co-founders of ASPO-USA.

Some sanity, finally, from one of my local newspapers.
I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh a lot, while driving and while at the office, I loved his sense of humor, and loved to yell and rant back at him for silly ideas.  

He has been drumming it in the Listeners ears for over a decade that the Oil Shale of our western states Is trillions of barrels of oil.   But like most others that spout the glories of the Plenty,  he lacks the understanding that energy is not money in getting things out of the ground.  If this were a money issue, we would be rolling in Tubs of oil before dinner,  but this is an energy issue.

 If I have to climb 7 flights of stairs to get my Breakfast toast and coffee every morning, I am not going to over time gain a lot of fat energy from the meal.

 Though I have heard that the oil shale make great fireplace bricks for the pyro in your family.

There was a time when I listened to Rush Limbaugh quite regularly, until it finally dawned on me that he has near total willful ignorance on so many things - the three most prominent subjects being the history of the labor movement in the US, the environment, and energy.

 His views on the latter are particularly laughable and could be easily dismissed were it not for the fact that literally several million people religiously listen to him and take his word as The Truth From On High.

 A person like him can do incalucable damage to any effort to develop an informed public understanding of what the real energy problems are. I haven't listened to him for years, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear him tout up abiotic oil as proof positive that all this peak oil baloney is just the ravings of leftist environmenal wackos bent on destroying the American Way of Life.  

I had a chance to have one of my questions about oil shale asked during a session by Shell at the Colorado School of Mines. I couldn't be there that day, so a friend on the faculty acted as the go-between. My question was basically, "You put a certain large amount of energy into an oil shale formation using the in situ process and you get X barrels of petroleum out. You put the same amount of energy into a coal liquifaction facility (including the mining, etc) and you get Y barrels out. Is X larger or smaller than Y." There were a lot of caveats added, but the basic answer seemed to be that they thought X<Y.

If the Shell process works as advertised, there are some benefits. Any excess carbon is supposed to stay in the ground along with any heavy metals that happen to be there. And there's a boatload of oil shale. But coal liquifaction can be clean too, if you work at it. And if the correct answer is that X<Y, then it would seem logical to do coal liquifaction first and get around to the oil shale later if you need it.

If shale oil and coal-to-liquids are both evil does it matter which is the lesser of two evils? Remember in either case that carbon was safely underground before it was added to the atmosphere.

OK in 100 years time we can have some alternative fossil fuels when CO2 is under control.

Why would coal-to-liquids be "evil"?
If you can download this file dclversussicl.pdf from the Princeton Environmental Institute (no link) it suggests CTL has well-to-wheels CO2 omissions 80% higher than petrofuels. However I believe this estimate uses optimistic assumptions and the figure is more like the 200% excess attributed to Canadian tar sands. The same kinds of negatives from tar sands also apply to CTL such as water requirements, strip mining, declining EROI and inevitable depletion. Positives are electricity co-generation and the fact the fuel is low in sulphur and aromatics. If you believe we must move towards carbon neutral fuels then CTL has no place.
Yes.  Shell has quoted the EROEI of their in-situ process at around 3.  Mining and liquifying coal has got to be quite a bit better than that.  However, if one adds in carbon-sequestration at the CTL plant, it maybe isn't so clear.

This is a link to the full length version of the Shale Oil article.  

The fact that they are even proposing such ridiculous plan is frightening. I look at it like a psychological preparation for the underground nukes to come.
This is one of the better articles on oil shale that I have seen.  The authors go a long way toward debunking oil shale as a potential energy source and Shell's program in particular.  

The freeze wall concept, in theory, is a good one.  As conceptualized, it keeps the ground water out and the pyrolysis gas and by products in.  And I do know, that at least some of the engineers at Shell, calculate the energy required to create and maintain the freezewall in their estimates of energy balance.  Overall it is not a large percentage of the total energy required (I am guessing about 10%).  

Bigger errors come in estimating the efficiency of the process.  Heater failure, anisotropic thermal behavior of the rock, overcooking and undercooking, in-situ coking of the resource, non-geometrical heating patterns, heat losses to the underburden, overburden, and outside the pattern, poor product recovery due to poor flow paths from heated zones to production wells, loss of heat to boiling groundwater, loss of heat due to thermal decomposition of minerals etc. etc. etc.

The biggest problem with the freeze wall (and there are many problems) is that it has to be 100% reliable - 99.99% is not good enough.  A tiny crack in the damn thing lets a stream of warm ground water through the wall that very quickly becomes a major breach.  Such a leak is undetectable and irreparable until the water on both sides of the wall comes to hydraulic equilibrium.  In the mean time, many millions (billions?) of gallons of water have leaked in to pyrolysis area stealing heat required for the pyrolysis reaction, getting contaminated with volatile organic compounds (BTEX) and probably creating an underground steam explosion.

Some other questions for Shell.

  1. Do they consider putting quadrillions of btu's in the ground to be thermal pollution?  Do they ever intend to actively try to cool the ground after they heat it up.
  2. They are creating billions of oil in the middle of a fresh-water aquifer.  This aquifer feeds the White River in western Colorado.  If they were to recover an impossibly high 99% of 10 billion barrels of oil generated they will still leave 100 million barrels of oil dispersed throughout this aquifer.  How do they intend to clean that up?
  3. Why is it that no other oil companies seem to be interested in this?  How come Shell is the only one pursuing this?
Ice walls by their nature tend to be rather thick, and to be designed to cope with fluid flows around the outside, albeit relatively slow ones.  There are instruments to detect flaws in the wall and unlike grouting, where a thin crack can survive and act as a conduit, this is relatively unlikely with ground freezing since the surrounding crack walls will freeze any fluid within the crack, stopping the flow.  And once the walls are established, keeping them in place does not require nearly as much energy.

(I am presuming that they are more observant than some un-named company who did not notice that there was a sewer running next to a planned freeze wall in one of those large cities built around an island somewhere on the East Coast.  Rumor has it (who would have a photo?) that the wall melted after the excavation had left the sewer line high in the wall.  Tsk!)

I agree with most of your assertions except 1) I do not know of any way to detect a leak except by measuring pressure variations inside and outside of the wall 2) if you do detect a pressure change it means a leak has sprung and 3) once a leak has sprung, you either have pyrolysis gas escaping outward or groundwater flooding into pyrolysis area.  

Theoretically, these ice walls are self healing, but even a small trickle of 80 deg F ground water moving with any velocity at all will make it through the wall without being frozen.  It can't be cooled quick enough by rock that is 20 deg F.  Once it makes it through the wall the stream will continue, constantly adding heat to the conduit of the leak and making it bigger.

The calculations are not that difficult, but do a quick experiment.  Drag your garden hose out on a cold dry day when it has been freezing for days and the surface of the ground is below 25 F.  Turn it to a moderate trickle, and let it run down a moderately sloped  concrete driveway (Caution, may make driving more hazardous)  Measure how far it goes before it freezes.   If it goes more than 20 ft it has breached the thickness of the wall.  Now assume that the water is much warmer than your hose and is under hundreds of psi pressure pushing it through the wall.

In terms of monitoring the freeze wall itself, you have to understand the scale of things that are being considered for these oil shale projects.  Oil shale in various parts of the Piceance Basin has richnesses of 1-2 million barrels per acre.  Assuming 1 million barrels per acre and 100% conversion and recovery of the resource (unrealistic, but go with me here), a 100,000 BOPD project eats up an acre every 10 days.  Every 3 years they go thorough about 100 acres.  About every 5 years they would pyrolyze 160 acres.  If you were to isolate 160 acres in one freeze wall, it would be a linear mile in length (assuming a rectangle) and it would be between 1000 and 2000 ft deep in the ground.  That is a hell of a large volume of rock to try to monitor (assuming you could at all).

The other thing to understand is the nature of the rock itself.  The Parachute Creek Member of the Green River Formation is a organic rich fractured marlstone.  It is a fresh water aquifer, but all the water is contained within fractures in the rock.  This water makes up a very small part of the bulk volume of what is under the ground.  There is no appreciable matrix porosity or pore water. So when you make an ice wall of this stuff, you are really making a lot of cold rock with frozen water in the fractures.  

All it takes is one small tectonic or man made event to open one of these fractures up to breach that wall.  Once the wall is breached, it is over.  

I agree - I have a spring behind my house that feeds a small fish pond 20' away, through a 1 1/4" pipe that is at most 10" underground.  At the moment I have a 50' pipe running on the surface as an outlet.  Neither the pond nor the pipe has ever frozen, and it has been below 0 twice this year - generally quite cold consistently.  The spring water is warm enough and the flow rate high enough that it just won't cool of that fast.  After it leaves the pipe it runs quite a way down a hill, and while I did not check it out on the coldest nights (there are limits to my curiosity), it is still thawed quite a distance every time I have checked.  Damn high heat capacity in water!
"Oil shale may be fool's gold"
I'm not sure the may is needed.  A person in the reality-based community can see Shale is a complete waste of resources.
Just like LNG for electricity production..a total farce.
This oil shale fiasco, a form of retardation by engineering degree, is yet another example of compounding technical snafu. Let's see. We discover oil. It can replace expensive whale oil. It can replace coal. Economy grows. Population grows. Pollution grows. All not a problem as long as there is plenty of planet to run to when we've fouled the nest. Hmmmm. Now we have become addicted to the stuff, and we've run out of planet. NO OIL. NO ECONOMY. Millions starve. Hmmm. Invent new ways to continue a bad idea. Nuclear -- radioactive for thousands upon thousands of years. But, who cares? We need our Wal-Marts. Coal gasification -- defile the earth. Mountain top mining. Stream beds destroyed. Global warming. Hey, wtf. As long as we get our selfish little selves around our bloated techno cities in individual comfort, then it is a small price to pay. We'll invent yet another crappy technology with unknown and known side effects in order to mitigate the ruin we create. We'll deal with the side effects of the mitigating technology later. We have ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD.


We deserve to die.

That was a heartfelt rant, Cherenkov. Can't say I'd dispute your argument, either. Maybe the monkeys have blown it and should have the decency to leave something for whatever comes after.

I would like to say I think your conclusion is wrong but, in all honesty, I can't.

Look on the bright side though, half of us probably will pretty soon. I'll hope those left can learn from our mistakes and redeem our species.

You assume you will be left, but from your own figures your chances of being right are only 50%, no better than from a coin toss.
Actually I don't make that assumption.

Nor have I decided whether I do want to live through what happens soon, I will probably decide on the basis of whether I think my life will be tolerable and whether I can make a worthwhile contribution to things then. I'm a tad over 50 and have as much curiousity as fear of death; though it probably won't be a comfortable experience it's not one I feel a need to run from.

I will probably be in a better position to choose how the coin falls than over 90% of humans, so the odds are I would survive if I so chose.

Careful with those assumptions, Eugene ;)

I apologize, I saw, "I'll hope those left can learn from our mistakes and redeem our species," and read, "I'll hope those of us left can learn from our mistakes and redeem our species". Looks like my bias (I invariably think of myself as surviving catastrophes except in my most introspective moments) is showing!
No problem, accepted, please stay spikey and outspoken.

You are right, we are programmed to think that way: that we will survive. But that doesn't make us correct in thinking so.

For Brook... Yes, we are almost certainly in overshoot, and the sooner we go through the pain of adjustment the better. The odds for everyone alive now get worse the longer it is postponed. Could be it can be done in a managed way if we get our act together now, but unlikely. Also unlikely that we will choose to do it in a fair and managed way, if current policies are anything to go by.

You've done the first step - you've opened your eyes.

So, priority 1 for you, in your son's interest, is to spread awareness and annoy your politicians into waking up about this and get them to do something constructive. It may be the difference between one third and two thirds die off, or 10% and 90%, who can tell yet? Put together a CD of mp3s of lectures and interviews about peak oil and its consequences, make lots of copies, give them to your friends and family, ask them to give a copy to theirs.

Priority 2 is to let your awareness guide your own lifestyle in society as it is now. Do your bit to minimise fossil hydrocarbon use.

Priority 3 is to prepare, in case. Develop skills that may become useful, become able to grow vegetables. Money may or not have any currency in future; useful and practical items and (manual) tools always have worth. What is most appropriate will depend on how things unfold, I think there is time (several years) yet.

But don't throw out Cherenkov's words: "We deserve to die". In the abstract context he used them they're probably a fair judgement, don't take it personal. Who lives or dies is rarely a question of who deserves what. Think more of the future and being / becoming one deserving of life if you have that fortune, and do your best to raise your son in that way, too.

I have a son.  I don't plan to give up that easy.  That's why I read this blog.

If I wanted to give up and prepare for the End Times there are a lot of other blogs I could read.

I apologise, Cherenkov, that was a little harsh.  What I mean is that it doesn't matter to me what we deserve.  I want to know how we can clean up the mess.

If we are in overshoot, then there will be a lot less people alive in 2100 than there are now.  Nothing we do can stop that.  What we might yet be able to do is have some control over how population is reduced.  If shale oil is a practical energy source, then it might give us more time to work out solutions to our population problems without billions of people dying of starvation, disease and war.

Environmentally it will be a disaster, I don't doubt. But we are in a situation where there are no clean solutions, I think.  

I have two children, one in college and the other about to graduate high school. I have not told both of them about peak oil -- only the college student. In fact, you may consider my dilemma as a microcosm of the larger problem.

First, to speak to your instinct to survive. You see, giving up is not in the lexicon of any healthy species. Sure, a few mentally ill people kill themselves and/or willingly go to war, but they are insane. (I know, I know. The soldiers, each and every one, believe someone else will die, not them.) Your stating, "I don't plan to give up that easy," is missing the point. The techno apologists are not giving up. They are striving as best they can to maintain business as usual, and, as for myself, I'm not giving up. My world is narrowing to a low energy use paradigm. I am looking to solidify and develop a working local network of producers of life's goods. And, most importantly, I try to shake up the complacent techno worshippers who seem to believe in technology much like Easter Islanders believed their technology would never let them down. There will be rough times ahead, but to call them end times is one of our particular society's peccadilloes, believing ourselves to be somehow special, too smart to be part of a dieoff, too full of Hollywood style gumption to watch our entropy machine die a simple death. In fact, the typical American's "go it alone" mentality is exactly why the machine will tilt and fall slowly to the ground in a spectacular crash that will blacken this society's outlook for centuries.

The problem with not preparing for the inevitable "rough times," is that it is actually a form of "giving up"  -- a stupid and macho type of giving up. Not preparing is like standing in a tunnel with your son in your arms while a whistle blows far down the tunnel. You say, "I'm not going to give up. I'm not going to run. I'm going to put my son down on these cross ties and read this cheery article about hydrogen cars in my latest issue of "Head in the Sand News." Meanwhile, the circle of light at the end of the tunnel dims then disappears. A roar deafens you, but you are determined to do the "Happy Tech Times Crossword Puzzle." Hmmm. What's a four letter word for too macho to heed an obvious and dire warning? Hmmm....dead?

I have sad news. Call it what you may, but there is a change a comin' and it won't be pretty.

Remember, technos are only too willing to kill one part of the natural system in order to maintain another unhealthy part. Now that we have hit the cheap energy summit, there is nothing left but devolution from techno-man to nature-man. We either realize the simple physics of entropy, or we can continue to live in the techno fantasy that we can support 6.8 billion people with infinite growth.

As for my is tough. My kid in college holds onto the techno view -- something will save our butts and allow her to keep buying cheap crap from the local Mal-Wart. I don't know what to tell my son. He is a head in the clouds kind of kid, an artist. He has high hopes about becoming a CGI artist. I urge them both to get practical skills, just in case. They look at me like I'm crazy. Horseshoeing? Ironworking? ARE YOU NUTZ?

Yes, telling the average American that the party is about to end is like telling a child their hamster died -- many tears, tantrums, pleading. Then comes the bargaining. "I'll be good. I'll clean my room."

Still, the hamster is dead. No amount of techno babble, social posturing, or wishful thinking will bring it back.

Bye-bye hamster.

The techno apologists are not giving up. They are striving as best they can to maintain business as usual, and, as for myself, I'm not giving up. My world is narrowing to a low energy use paradigm.

You can call me a "techno apologist", but I'm hardly in favor of business as usual.  I just don't think it's sensible or even sane to see reality as darker than it is.

The eventual end of fossil fuel (which won't be for a while) means much less than most people think.  Sure, it means having to live on income instead of savings, but that income is far greater than most people appreciate.  The USA uses about 100 quads of energy/year, or about 340 million BTU of energy per capita per year.  The sun dumps 4.9 BILLION BTU of energy on a 66 by 150 foot lot around Topeka, KS.  Each year, every year.  And similar amounts on the millions of square miles around it.

If you put the ~300 million population of the USA four to a house on 66x150 foot lots (17.6 people/acre, 11264 per square mile), you'd get the whole population onto less than 27,000 square miles.  That's an area a bit over 163 miles square.  Center that area around Topeka and the sunlight alone which falls on it could more than satisfy all our demands, inefficient as we are.

We're a ways from being able to capture solar energy that efficiently, but not that far.  I'd guess 20 years.  We are doing a really good job of capturing wind, of which there's about 1.2 terawatts available in the US (36 quads/year, representing over 100 quads of fossil energy for generation).

We've got plenty of time if we move now.

In 1995, SPP/CPM signed with the Canadian company, Suncor Energy, to commence development of one of the oil shale deposits, the Stuart deposit, located near Gladstone. Suncor operated the Stuart project but, in 2001, SPP/CPM purchased Suncor's interest. The Stuart project incorporates the Alberta-Taciuk Processor (ATP) retort technology and had three planned stages. The Stage 1 demonstration plant attained full production during 2001. After technical and economic feasibility were proved, it was planned that the ATP in Stage 2 was to be scaled up to 14,800 bpd of oil products. A Stage 3 commercial plant was conceived as processing 65,000 of bpd of oil products to bring total production to 85,000 bpd by 2009.

Assuming that new in-situ recovery technique proposed by Shell is working. What kind of throughput can we hope from oil shale? 100,000 bpd? Like tar sands it's peeing in the Grand Canyon!

Lately I have been hearing lots of non-conventional liquid fuel talk on cable tv. CTL, oil shale, tar sands, bio-diesel, ethanol, etc. I've heard them all in the last couple of weeks on various channels. Every time someone brings up an idea I hear the others say: "Well, that's it! hurray! we're saved". Truth is, if we don't cut down consumption we are going to need all that and much, much more, and, at a terrible environmental cost. The gasoline we use is very refined. The heavier the extraction cost, the heavier the environmental load. If peak conventional oil doesn't get us, eventually the environment will. We here in the U.S. are by far the most heavily addicted country in the world. We should have evolved past this point by now, but we haven't. We should have long ago passed the torch to the developing nations of the world, but we haven't. I fear we are past the point of no return. The world would now be better off without the U.S.. Nobody wants to say it, but we have out-lived our usefulness as a nation. We are now merely "consumers". The world relies on us as such. The whole world economy revolves around other countries selling us things and taking paper dollars in exchange. Soon this arrangement will grow burdensome. This country is a giant nursing home, waiting for the end. The only question that remains is: will we go peaceably, or will we take the rest of the world down with us?
Woooo, this thread has got heavy.

Correct, the probability of biofuels, oil shales and sands, providing as much as 10% of current gasoline usage in the next 20 or 30 years is pretty miniscule.

Nor do I question your assessment of the US, though I wouldn't have put it quite like that. Being blunt, most of the developed world, and partcularly the US, has raped this planet's resources and crapped in its environment at the expense of the less developed world. Sadly they mostly aspire to do the same.

You know your answer to your final question. Even if things continue on a fairly even keel for 20 more years China will almost certainly eclipse the US by then as the pre-eminent global economic power. Ends of empires are usually messy.

Yeah, sorry about the nursing home analogy - pretty callous. I should have said this country is a brain dead automobile accident victim on life support. We need someone else to do everything for us. (is that more PC? probably not) Anyway, I was afraid someone would tell me that I already knew the answer to my question. The world wanted the U.S. to sign the Kyoto agreement. What they don't understand (or maybe they do) is that it doesn't get any better than this. Environmental regulations have forced electric producers to lean heavily on natural gas. The same type of regs make gasoline more expensive. When PO starts to rear its' ugly head for real, those regs. will, and are, going to fly out the window. With natural gas depletion alone over the next twenty or so years the U.S. will need to build 150 (500) megawatt coal or atomic power plants just to meet current needs. Last I checked electricity consumption was increasing at 9% +- per year. If we change residential users to electric heating systems that will increase needs even further. The coal will have to be mined and shipped by rail, not pipeline. This is just the future of electric consumption, not transportation fuels. What will further happen when they start full out non-conventional transport fuels production? Well you know the answer, further demands from electricity. If money continues to be the only constraint upon fuel consumption the ecological nightmare that awaits humanity in fifty years time goes beyond my ability to sanely contemplate. The thread got heavy? Reality is heavy, my friend. The gravity of the energy situation in this country is quite real if measures are not taken in the near future to mitigate uncontrolled consumption.
LOL, I hope my slant on you knowing the answer to your own question was a mild surprise, at least, since it virtually dismissed the trigger of peak oil. (I know, one can't). Don't worry about 50 years hence, things happen MUCH sooner than that - unless folks like us can perform miracles ;)

But see my post currently about 6 back where I suggest to Brook some things to do.

Ultimately we need a 'humanity mindshift', nothing less stands a chance. So let's get working on it. Surely us monkeys are not as dumb as Head Lem thinks? (reference to:  )

Having suggested to Brook to make a CD of mp3s on peak oil I feel it my duty to provide a set of links to same. Hope to post that tomorrow in the ' "Good gifts" for the holidays' thread. I'll be taking my own advice, too, which is surprisingly rare for me, and inflicting CDs on my friends - so thanks, Brook, for prompting the idea.

Last I checked electricity consumption was increasing at 9% +- per year.
You're off by an order of magnitude.  Try 0.9% per year.

(I'll bet a lot of that was for A/C in the record-hot summer.  I wouldn't expect that trend year over year.)

Engineer Poet, I swear I had a comprehensive chart that had +9%, but I can't find it. (that will teach me to quickly discard my links) according to this site it is +1.9%:
Anyhow, would you agree with my overall assessment of the future need for changes in the production of electricity in this country? I know this is off topic a little but I am trying to get a handle on total environmental impact of non-conventional oil and electrical production combined for the next twenty or so years.
You can't make assumptions about 2005 because it's not over yet; historical figures back to 1949 are here
2004 was up 1.8% over '03, '03 was up 0.6% over '02, '02 was up 3.2% over '01, '01 was DOWN 1.7% over '00.

Hell, yes we need to change generation, and management, and a host of other things.  I have my own ideas about this, of course.

Thanks for the response. I am really not upset about the situation. I have a very simple philosophy of life which allows me to dispassionately observe these inevitable events which will soon transpire. I have accepted that things are beyond my control for a long time. Consider my participation in this blog as my gift to future generations. I could have chosen to remain silent even now with good conscience but I have chosen instead to contribute so that possbly future generations will understand that there were those of us who understood what was happening, were very concerned, while at the same time, there was little we could do to prevent what must now happen. If you are trying to reassure me I appreciate it. I say to you all, thank you. I know your hearts are in the right place. I join my voice with yours in saying that changes must be made, and will be made, either voluntarily or not this present consumption rate will be curtailed. The longer people live in denial about it, the worse it will be.  We are living on the edge of a very steep cliff in this country. It won't take much of an impetus to send us over the edge. I don't want to sound like an alarmist, we may still have time. If not, I wish you all well and hope that you can find peace at whatever energy level you find yourself. I just hope for our sake and the sake of the rest of the world that more and more serious wars do not mar our future worse than it already is. Sorry to be so long-winded.
Tar Sands are only profitable and feasible if crude is selling for more than $100USD.   I spend 10 years in the Northwest Territories and Alberta and there is ALOT of the stuff up there!  The best engineering scheme we came up with was to build a nuclear power plant, actually five of them!, in the tundra to generate power to bake the oil out of the sand.  Expensive proposition!  
Tar sands are essentially a way to turn natural gas into oil. The profitability depends on the price of oil versus the price of gas times the interest rate (which is the cost of the facilities and machines to move the tar sands around).
We could use electric heat to warm the tar sands, but then we would have to burn coal or uranium to generate the power and lose 60% of the heat in the coal or uranium.
We probably will when we run out of natural gas.