Oil shale development has long been a controversial issue in the West due to its history of failed projects despite billions invested by taxpayers and industry. It’s certainly no stranger to us at CEC. While we continue to push for cleaner more efficient types of energy for our future, oil shale continues to pop it’s head up longing for attention. There are so many potential issues with developing oil shale at times it’s difficult to even begin to discuss. For starters, to turn oil shale rock into oil, it must be superheated to 700 degrees or more over a period of months or even years to be turned into oil. No matter how you shake it, developing oil shale is going to be energy intensive and could require enormous amounts of electricity and water to develop. No one knows just how much water oil shale companies would use or pollute, but we do know oil shale speculation poses an unacceptable risk to Western families, rivers, and our farmers and ranchers. That dice of speculation is one that we at CEC are not willing to roll. Recently the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has decided that research should happen beforecommercial development, demonstrating that they too are not ready to roll the oil shale dice.
Currently, BLM is completing a planning process for the future of oil shale development in the West, based on Secretary Salazar’s decision in February 2011 to take a fresh look at the oil shale plan released in 2008. That plan opened up 2 million acres of western public lands to oil shale, despite the fact that the BLM clearly acknowledged that it did not know what the real impacts of development would be. Just last week however, Secretary Salazar adopted a plan that better protects our water, air and quality of life in western Colorado from costly oil shale speculation. The plan put forth allocates over 1,000 square miles of public lands to conduct research, development and demonstration (RD&D) before converting that land to commercial leasing. This is still massive amount of public land, for an industry that has yet to prove itself. While we think the current approach by BLM is on the right track, the question remains as to whether we should be allocating our public lands to research and development of oil shale or if we should be putting our public resources toward cleaner, more sustainable energy sources. For more information on oil shale, it’s past, present, and future visit: www.oilshalfacts.org.