Speaker touts importance of West’s oil shale

Turbulence in Mideast leaves U.S. vulnerable, he tells expo

Events this week in Libya underscore the need to encourage development of the United States’ world-class supply of oil shale, an industry executive and former Department of Energy official said Friday.

Anton “Tony” Dammer, senior vice president of Red Leaf Resources Inc., said a spike in oil prices related to concerns about Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s response to unrest there shows how vulnerable the United States is because of its reliance on foreign oil.

“He’s holding us up. He just cost us $20 a barrel. I mean, come on, we can’t do this anymore,” Dammer said at Friday’s Energy Forum & Expo at Grand Junction’s Two Rivers Convention Center.

Dammer is the former director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves, and he founded the DOE’s Unconventional Fuels Program. At Red Leaf, he’s helping pursue a process of producing kerogen from shallow oil shale deposits in northeastern Utah. Red Leaf has shale leases covering 17,000 acres of state school trust lands, and the company plans to undertake a 9,500-barrel-a-day project there that will employ 200 people, Dammer said.

Utah welcomes oil shale development, Dammer said.

“When a Red Leaf person goes to Vernal, Utah, unlike some places we get rose petals thrown in front of us,” he said.

People in Utah recognize the jobs and tax stream such a project will bring, he said.

“I don’t understand why the federal government hasn’t figured that one out — employment, revenues,” Dammer said.

Plans by companies to develop oil shale reserves in Colorado “will produce a lot of oil for the United States, and why they come under such criticism is beyond me,” Dammer said.

Earlier this month, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced plans to settle lawsuits by conservation groups over prior government decisions to establish commercial oil shale rules and designate 2 million acres in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah for possible development. The government plans to take a new look at the acreage designations and rules, which include royalty rates Salazar has said are too low.

Shell holds three federal oil shale leases in Rio Blanco County. In an interview, Shell spokeswoman Carolyn Tucker said the government’s decision to rethink past oil shale actions results in regulatory and economic uncertainty for the company. Knowing the royalty rate helped Shell analyze the economics of a potential commercial operation, she said.



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