Caution is essential at oil shale hearings

As U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton and Doug Lamborn, both Colorado Republicans, head up a congressional oversight hearing today in City Hall, we hope that the big picture remains in focus.

The hearing, which is being conducted under the auspices of the House Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee on energy and mineral resources, is aimed at highlighting research, regulation and roadblocks to development of shale.

Oil shale, to be sure, is a monumental resource, or at least has the potential to be one. It’s also a stubborn one.

Oil shale has defied the best efforts of science and economics over a century now and there’s no reason to suspect that the secret to unlocking energy from rock is upon us.

What we do know is that barring a technical leap forward it will take energy, and lots of it, to free oil shale’s trapped hydrocarbons. It also is likely to need lots of water. Last time around, there was talk of pipelines to bring water in from far-flung, wetter places, even of using the melted water of icebergs in the oil shale process. Caution is in order.

We also recognize that oil shale is a resource that, in combination with others, could free the United States to pursue its own path, unfettered by noxious ties to truly repellent regimes. If for no other reason, oil shale research deserves all the attention it gets, and more.

To be sure, research is continuing on many levels. It’s also true that more ideas could be put to the test.

We’re hopeful that the congressmen will keep all those things in mind as their hearing proceeds.


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