Lab director: Feds need role in oil shale

The U.S, Department of Energy should have a role to play in the development of oil shale, an official with the Idaho National Laboratory testified on Friday.

“A viable oil shale industry would help meet U.S. energy demands and reduce dependence on imports,” said Michael Hagood, director of program development at the laboratory’s Energy and Environment Science and Technology section.

Hagood testified before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology on a measure calling for the Energy Department to spend $10 million a year for the next five years on oil shale research.

Critics of the measure said it amounted to a subsidy of private industry.

H.R. 6603, the Tapping America’s Energy Potential through Research and Development Act of 2012 by Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, would direct the Energy Department to study technical aspects of oil shale development and methods of reducing or eliminating the use of water in the process.

The Energy Department could act as a an independent broker of technical information about the effects of development and methods of mitigating them, Hagood said.

Oil shale reserves in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming contain an estimated 4 trillion barrels of the equivalent of crude oil, about 800 billion barrels of which are recoverable, Hagood said.

“This resource could last 100 or more years” at the current rate of use, Hagood said.

The proposed spending, however, smacks of a giveaway to industry, said U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, D-Calif.

“If it is a slam dunk, why do we need to be funding it?” Miller said of the prospects for development, noting that oil shale remains unproven “although it’s been researched to within an inch of its life.”


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