Fine points out that Shell Oil has developed a technique that uses underground heaters to transform crude oil shale into burnable petroleum before it's even brought to the surface. This allows it to be extracted with far less above-ground pollution. Meanwhile, Chevron came up with technology that uses significantly less water to cool the refining machinery. That means processing oil shale is becoming environmentally safer and less expensive.
And speaking of the environment: These methods of harvesting oil shale force excess carbon back into the ground, so even Al Gore should support them. Plus, they're becoming more cost-effective every year. Fine estimates we eventually could produce a barrel of oil for $25. And, he says, the Defense Department has found that shale actually produces jet fuel that is far better than average.
These days, as the tortilla shortage in Mexico proves, there's already a demand for more corn than our farms can produce. Farmers no longer need (if they ever did) the federal government to mandate the use of ethanol. And drivers no longer can afford ethanol subsidies, either.
Imported oil is a dead end, and an expensive one at that. It's time to try a different route.