Friday, April 21, 2006


It's been a slow day, so I looked for blog articles mentioning Estonia, and came across this. Two things:

1) The Estonica bit: Yep, shale is our one noticeable mineral resource. (The other natural resource is our forest, which I think is the official collateral for the national currency.) Shale, in ore form, is used in powerplants, and as such is the least efficient fuel used by humanity. But we've got it, and a good amount of it. The article above mentions Brazil, but back when I was in high school, Estonia was the world's leading producer of shale. The US was second. Today the shale is mostly converted into shale oil, which we export to great success. Apparently shale oil is added in small quantities to crude oil to facilitate refinement and end up with high-quality petrol.

2) The reality bit: This is an excellent example of what I find to be the problem with the current hype about fuel cells and running out of oil. There is no accurate, or even convincing estimate of how much oil there is in the world and how much of it is feasibly extractable. One figure I've heard recently was that 90% of the world's easily available oil reserves are in Venezuela; and Hugo Chavez has been talking about selling it at a fixed price of $50/barrel to everyone except the US. I know he's a bastard, but damn, at that price I'll take it. Now there's a huge reserve of oil right there in the US, extractable at a cost of $25/barrel. The important thing to take away from this is that you shouldn't put much stock in proof by repeated assertion, and apply some common sense to at least assess the credibility of sensational statements.

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