The old saying is “when in a hole, stop digging”. Faced with rising energy prices, and concern over climate change, rather than disinvest out of oil, the US is going to start digging for more of it.

But this time it’s oil shale, which is dirtier, and more energy intensive than conventional oil. Oil shale development also consumes vast amounts of water, which is ironic that the reserves are in the mid-West of the US, a region already strapped for water.

Yesterday, the U.S. Interior Department published proposed regulations to establish a commercial oil shale program that proponents argue could result in up to 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from the western United States.

“As Americans pay more than $4 for a gallon of gasoline and watch energy prices continue to climb higher and higher, we need to be doing more to develop our own energy here at home, through resources such as oil shale,” said Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. “Instead, I find it ironic that we are asking countries halfway around the world to produce more for us,” he said.

Many people may find it ironic that the Bush Administration continues a blinkered approach to energy. Indeed it can only produce draft regulations for comment, as Congress has blocked development of the oil shale due to environmental concerns. Moreover, it is not yet technologically viable to convert the shale.

But to entice companies to invest the Bush Administration is proposing lower royalty payments than elsewhere. Critics of the scheme, along with Colorado’s Democratic governor, Bill Ritter, accused the Bush administration of rushing to develop oil shale at “bargain basement” rates, without accounting for its various impacts. Ritter said that oil shale, which would not be produce oil until 2015 or 2016, would do nothing to help with high gasoline prices.

“This is a last-ditch, irresponsible attempt by the White House to issue commercial oil-shale leases, at Colorado’s expense,” Ritter said. “These regulations would send bargain basement royalty rates that could cost Coloradans billions of dollars.”

In the dying days of Bush’s presidency I think we will see many “last-ditch” efforts to please his oil industry friends.


  • As a resident of the area that Mr. Bush and the oil companies have decided to ‘destroy’ in their greed. I can tell you that nothing good will come of oil shale development. If you think mountain top coal mining is a disgrace, this will even top that with the damage to the environment and the demand on water.

    Shell Oil’s idea (Mahogany Project) is so Ludicrous that you have to be ‘in the oil business’ to buy off on this project. They have not to date made this a viable method of retorting oil from shale. But from the Department of Interior, BLM, and Bush adminstrations office you would think this is ‘the answer to our energy problems.’ I can tell you it’s the beginning of many more problems than solutions.

    Time to wake up America to the oil and gas propaganda machine. Look into and promote and as well as geothermal, solar … you know all those things that big oil isn’t controlling right now.

  • That’s right! Kill the Mustangs that have more right to that land (along with the indigeionous people we killed off 100 years ago), to finally kill ourselves off to quench the oil monster’s greed. Vote for McSame! (and shame on ya).

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