Feds must push shale, expert says

Government has resources, he says

The United States has the natural resources — oil shale among them — to achieve energy independence, the senior researcher for the RAND Corp. said.

James T. Bartis, senior policy researcher for RAND, was questioned Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., about whether it might be possible to stop importing oil.

“My answer was yes,” Bartis said.

Oil shale, coal gasification, biomass and conservation all could help the United States break free of oil imports, but each also has drawbacks, Bartis said.

A critic, though, said exploiting federal oil shale deposits won’t increase energy independence and could cost taxpayers.

Bartis, who long has advocated development of oil shale on a small scale so as to better understand and anticipate the implications of large-scale commercial development, said he wants the federal government to play a major role in development of oil shale.

It should be a national goal to determine: “Can we get an industry that can produce a few million barrels (of oil) a day from the Piceance?” Bartis said in an interview with The Daily Sentinel.

The Green River formation in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming contains as much as the equivalent of 3 trillion barrels of oil. Only about 800 billion barrels of oil appear to be recoverable, but the size of the resource still dwarfs that of Saudi Arabia, Bartis said.

Bartis’ testimony before two congressional committees “seems to border on schizophrenia,” said Matt Garrington of Denver-based Checksandbalances.org, which said oil shale is a “failed fuel source, and that fact won’t change anytime soon.”

Garrington was referring to Bartis’ interest in shale as part of the recipe for energy independence while also saying its future is “uncertain.”

While many parts of the formation are privately held, the most promising deposits are on federal lands, meaning the federal government must play a critical role in the development of oil shale, Bartis said.

The “uncertainty” of oil shale is the result of a lack of information about the consequences of development of oil shale installations, he said.

“Let’s get a few built and find out what’s going on,” Bartis said.

Federal involvement should be minimal because “the public has no stomach for Bartis’ proposal to increase taxpayer handouts to Big Oil for oil shale development,” Garrington said.


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