Letter to the Editor: Issues, not excuses
With oil prices near record highs and world supplies increasingly in the hands of countries set on destroying our country, now is not the time to close the door on any domestic energy source. We need more energy, both traditional and renewable, for our economy and for our nation's security. Unfortunately, some in Congress want to completely halt even the consideration of one of the most promising domestic energy resources, oil shale.
The history of oil shale in Northwestern Colorado has been controversial. None of us want a repeat of the bust of 25 years ago. The impacts to our communities were long-lasting. But our region contains an estimated 1.2 to 1.8 trillion barrels of oil. Even by conservative estimates, there are 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from oil shale in the area. That is three times greater than the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. Seventy percent of these reserves are under the control of the federal government.
The balanced and responsible development of oil shale should not become a Democrat vs. Republican or energy industry vs. environmentalist issue. Fundamentally this is an issue about using our own energy resources to meet our growing energy needs. In spite of new approaches to extract oil shale under research and development, Congress has already taken steps to remove the resource from our future energy mix.
This summer the House of Representatives narrowly passed proposals to prevent federal agencies from moving ahead on oil shale regulations. The interior spending measure that funds the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies was amended to bring a halt to the oil shale regulatory process initiated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Industry experts agree that the result of this and a similar provision in the House energy bill will stop oil shale development in the Western United States.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05) took significant steps toward strengthening our nation's energy independence by encouraging further responsible development of domestic resources. Among them were oil shale, tar sands, and other strategic unconventional fuels. The bill included a requirement (Section 369) for the Secretary of the Interior to develop a commercial oil shale and tar sands leasing program on federal lands in the States of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming as soon as practicable and publish a final regulation to implement the program later this year.
Now is the time to strengthen our domestic energy security. Putting roadblocks in a regulatory process that already has received local input even when commercial oil shale development is several years off is the wrong approach. Western Colorado contributes significantly to the nation's energy needs already. None of us want oil shale to proceed without careful consideration of its impact to local communities, water and the environment.
Those issues should be included in the debate, not used as excuses to silence local voices that recognize the long-term benefits of oil shale in our region and the country. Congress should allow the oil shale regulatory process to move forward, permit industry to continue its research programs and keep the door open to local input when it comes to this critical energy issue.