Printed letters, November 6, 2012
It is unfortunate and insulting that a handful of state and local officials in Nevada and Arizona would take it upon themselves to support an ill-conceived and politically motivated BLM proposal to eliminate the vast majority of prospective oil shale lands from consideration for leasing and development, based on erroneous misconceptions regarding water quality and use.
The officials, unsurprisingly all Democrats, do not want a balanced approach. Their agenda is to halt oil shale development in its tracks — regardless of the facts, the outcomes of any studies or the benefits of oil shale production.
Chris Treese of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, and Dr. Jeremy Boak, director of the Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research at the Colorado School of Mines, are noted experts in their field and are more qualified to speak on matters pertaining to the Colorado River and oil shale development than are the distinguished officials from Nevada and Arizona.
As Treese pointed out, these folks and their jurisdictions would see absolutely no negative impacts on their water quality from oil shale development, due to both geology and the established processes and regulations already in place.
Similarly, Boak called attention to the facts that many of the oil shale zones those companies are working on are isolated by depth, geology and process from groundwater and that the technologies being developed by the industry to access this resource are specifically designed to protect groundwater.
In terms of water usage, Boak also reminds us the amount of water that might at most be used in the production of oil shale is a tiny fraction of that used by agriculture, and yet there is no protest from our neighbors over this usage.
These Nevada and Arizona officials are merely advancing a political agenda and are shamelessly hiding behind unfounded concerns and using the emotional issue of water to do so.
Developers must refine oil-shale extraction
Commercial oil shale development isn’t ready for prime time, and no amount of posturing by industry or its front groups such as Environmentally Conscious Consumers for Oil Shale will change that. This has been a fact since 1890. It was true in 1977 and is now.
There may come a day when commercial oil shale development is viable and, if it does, we as a community can decide how to proceed while still protecting our water. In the meantime, the oil shale industry should get its facts straight and stop misrepresenting the stance of other stakeholders such as local governments, water groups and sportsmen.
This is a backward way to democracy. They’d be better off spending their time trying to come up with viable commercial technology, which they’ve failed to do despite decades of taxpayer investments, than spreading misinformation.
Environmental movement’s hypocrisy is highly evident
The hypocrisy and confusion of the environmental movement, especially when it comes to oil shale, is striking.
It is hypocritical, for instance, for the anti-oil shale lobby to object, as David Ableson of Western Resource Advocates does in Gary Harmon’s Oct. 21 article, to allowing the oil shale industry to compete for leases on federal land on the basis that oil shale is an “industry that does not yet exist,” while simultaneously clamoring for more and continued subsidization and tax giveaways to “renewable” energy industries that are similarly experimental — although far less economically sustainable and holding less developmental potential than oil shale.
The oil shale industry, unlike some in the solar and wind industries, is not asking for the American taxpayer to support them. It is simply looking for a fair opportunity to develop and produce this resource, on the federal land under which it exists. The industry is not even asking for the land to be set aside — they just want the chance to apply for leases on it.
Conversely, the environmentalists are actively lobbying for the government to use the people’s money to prop up their chosen industries, which cannot economically stand on their own. Where the oil shale industry is looking for a level playing field, the “renewable” sector wants the table tilted in its favor.
Also, Ableson seems confused about oil shale’s potential. First, he labels it an industry that does not exist, then concedes that commercial level oil shale projects are proceeding on private land.
So which is it? Is it an experimental entity like solar and wind or a commercially viable one? Either way, arbitrarily blocking access to the federal land where this resource is most densely concentrated makes little sense.
It is ironic that oil shale would be called a “stone age fuel” by people who seem to advocate civilization’s return to the Stone Age.
PATRICK J. HAYES