Is Shale Oil Going To Save South Australia?

money bag

The furious pace of exploration and extraction of fossil energy in Australia continues. Publicly listed company Linc Energy has just released its consultants estimates of shale oil and gas from its Arckaringa Basin tenement. It's a massive "find" - anywhere from 103 to 223 billion barrels of oil equivalent, according to the consultants.

Here's a story from "The Age" dated 23 January 2013.

At the date of this post, South Australia's balance sheet is in a pretty parlous state. A number of months ago I wrote about the alarming decline of funding to the Northern & Yorke NRM Board. Although these cuts are tiny in comparison with the size of the state budget, they are symptomatic of massive cuts from all sectors of government activity.

There are many reasons for the problems confronting the financial situation of the state, but put simply, the government has been spending its future earnings and it has been spending on spurious projects such as the Adelaide Oval upgrade. This is a classic case of a misappropriated vision - if it can be called that.

The missing principle

Let's get back to fossil energy. Last October I wrote a brief post on shale gas at Moomba. Well, here we are again, with Linc Energy's announcement. Now, let's not be naive about this. Australia is sitting on massive quantities of fossil energy, and as time passes and technology improves, these fossil resources are being extracted at an unprecedented rate. The world needs our energy so we are told.

But at what cost to the Australian environment, and to the global environment? No one knows. Does anybody care?

precautionary principle

There is so much uncertainty, debate, partisan positions (from the general public, politicians, commentators, and the scientific community), and research about the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the stability of the global environment, that it is as though all this should be ignored and the precautionary principle should be tossed aside. Precautionary Principle? Yes, that's the one that's gone missing in all the hoo-hah that's been going on about "Climate Change" during at least the past 10 years.

It seems there is no space for a pause on the single-minded extraction of hydrocarbons. It also seems that there is no time to take a pause. Why? Is it because some governments need the cash-flow to prop up their ailing finances? 

Here's another thought. It is patently disingenuous to talk about reducing greenhouse gas emissions - as governments around Australia do - and introduce a carbon tax arrangement, and yet support the accelerated extraction of fossil energy.

It is also curious why other countries (such as the US and Canada) are extracting hydrocarbons at a  rate never seen before, knowing that the global environment will most likely be adversely impacted.

Is there something big business and governments know and we don't? 

What does the Linc Energy "discovery" mean?

So, let's just understand what the Linc Energy "discovery" could mean in relation to Carbon Dioxide emissions. For this basic assessment, I'm using this source, from Wikipedia.

Now consider the low end of one consultant's estimate of shale oil - 103 billion barrels.

oil barrel

My source says that "1 barrel of oil could produce 433 kg of carbon doixide"

Therefore ... 

103 billion barrels of oil equivalent would produce 44.6 billion tonnes of carbon doixide.

(this is 44,600 million tonnes of CO2)

223 billion barrels would produce 96,560 million tonnes of CO2)

Australia's annual CO2 equivalent emissions was 551 million tonnes in 2012 (see the Australian Government's climate change website for details)

The Linc Energy "discovery" is therefore equivalent to nearly 81 years to 175 years of Australia's 2012 CO2 emissions.

So, there's some context in this "discovery". 

Given the alarming outcomes of A Climate Change Adaptation Framework for South Australia (2012), will this great "discovery" save South Australia? Or is it just another beat-up, a good story to make people feel good and to divert their attention from the real world?

What do you think? Make a comment.

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