Monday, July 14, 2008

Oil Shale: Mark Udall's Obstructionism vs. Bob Schaffer's Comprehensive Approach

Sunday's Grand Junction Daily Sentinel features dueling columns between U.S. Senate candidates Bob Schaffer and Mark Udall on the issue of energy production and the potential of western Colorado oil shale, in particular. A careful look at the two articles highlights a vital contrast

Mark Udall's piece is full of warnings about irresponsible oil shale development, but leaves only the vaguest of hints of what he thinks needs to be done in moving forward.

In one place, Mark Udall writes:
Put plain and simple: We still don’t really know how to develop oil shale in a way that makes economic sense and in a way that protects scarce water resources.

And if we don’t want to send the Western Slope into another economic crash, we’d better figure that out before we try to kick-start another crash program.
Classic doublespeak. It will be harder for oil shale extraction to make "economic sense" when environmental interests, to whom Mark Udall is beholden, press for additional unreasonable regulations that will make the already challenging process costlier. Udall also has advocated a one-year moratorium on oil shale recovery.

The fact that Mark Udall neglected to mention Royal Dutch Shell's Mahogany Ridge Project may speak louder than anything he actually wrote:
But a new technology has emerged that may begin to tap the
oil shale's potential. Royal Dutch Shell, in fact, has recently completed a demonstration project (The Mahogany Ridge project) in which it produced 1,400 barrels of oil from shale in the ground, without mining the shale at all.

Instead, Shell utilized a process called "in situ" mining, which heats the shale while it's still in the ground, to the point where the oil leaches from the rock.
Recognizing this reality and others,
Bob Schaffer's piece
is full of faith in American ingenuity. His approach to energy policy is comprehensive:
We should offer more incentives to grow a more robust renewable energy sector. We should hold out incentives for unconventional technologies such as oil-shale, oil sands and others. We should expand other clean-energy opportunities such as nuclear and geothermal.
Bob Schaffer's strategy for oil shale is reasonable and balanced. Among other things, he recognizes that energy companies have made dramatic technological advancements in oil shale extraction that respect the environment.

As MSNBC has reported, even Democrat Governor Bill Ritter has spoken out clearly about the promised benefits of oil shale extraction: "If we go forward with oil shale, it could be the biggest commercial development in the history of the state of Colorado."

Despite using the rhetoric of responsibility, Mark Udall's energy obstructionism represents irresponsible behavior. Bob Schaffer's plan respects the environment but gives incentive to speed a process that can give a huge boost to America's energy supply and a major boon to Colorado's economy.

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