In the Nov. 10 story regarding the BLM's adoption of a plan restricting oil shale development in the American West, federal bureaucrats and Colorado's Democratic senators seemed to try to outdo each other in making misleading statements.
First, BLM Colorado State Director Helen Hankins said, "This plan lays a strong foundation to explore oil shale's potential."
This plan, however, does no such thing; to the contrary, the sharp reduction in land available for potential oil shale leasing opportunities removes any foundation to explore those potentials by removing the possibility to capitalize on any research - not to mention that even much of the land available to conduct research has been taken off the table.
Incidentally, the media release was in response in part to a well-timed bone tossed to the industry by finally approving a few leases to Exxon Mobil - a cynically calculated move to try and paint the agency as being dedicated to oil shale research, despite its not-so-veiled agenda to prohibit any oil shale development.
Colorado's senators decided to quickly weigh in with some Orwellian doublespeak of their own: Sen. Udall, for example, said that he welcomed "measured steps," then went on to praise a proposal that removes the staircase.
He came close to the truth when he said he had "concerns about the potential impacts of commercial oil shale development," such as the threat that it would succeed, and further marginalize his campaign contributors in the renewables industry, but relapsed when he then said, "I look forward to seeing this technology explored further," knowing full well this plan will preclude much further exploration. Sen. Bennet echoed the same.
Once again, federal bureaucrats and Democratic senators are subordinating the best interests of Western Colorado and the nation to the indefensible and purely political concerns of a handful of special interests.
The BLM, in adopting a prohibitive new oil shale leasing plan, has declared that it is not at all interested in pursuing oil shale's potential. By reducing the amount of land available to be leased to a mere 26,000 acres, the BLM has removed all incentives for conducting research and development into this promising domestic energy source.
No one is going to invest the time and capital into research without a reasonable expectation of return on their investment, and relying on the whims of an energy-unfriendly federal agency is hardly reassuring.
The reasons offered by the BLM for reducing the available acreage by even more than initially proposed are also back-handed; removing acreage based on supposed "wilderness characteristics" is not within the purview of the BLM, or any other federal agency. The right and ability to designate land as wilderness rests solely with the people through their elected Congress, not a panel of agency bureaucrats.
The final injury is that this approach may ultimately prove far more harmful to the environment, and less measured than the original plan of allowing the nascent oil shale industry the flexibility to conduct research, and the opportunity to expand that research into commercial production, thereby permitting the gradual approach purportedly favored by the environmentalists.
In due course, the United States will require the energy locked in oil shale. Renewables, at best, are only capable of providing around 20 percent of the power required by society; geopolitical factors will make Venezuelan and Middle Eastern oil prohibitive economically and morally; and recent political decisions may force Canada to sell its oil to foreign markets, in locked-in contracts. At that time, economic survival will trump any other concern, leading to an actual reckless, mad-dash approach, which opponents say they are against.
The BLM has taken a very short-sighted, politically expedient course that will harm more than just our regional economy in the long run.