Letter: Learn about oil shale
We haven’t heard about oil shale much lately but it’s a hard one for many Coloradans to forget as the dark days and economic devastation of Black Sunday in 1982 left an imprint on many of us.
Oil shale is a sedimentary rock containing kerogen, from which petroleum-like liquids can be extracted. While western Colorado has deposits of oil shale, including deposits on public lands, there are no commercial oil shale operations in the United States. This is due to technological and economic constraints, as well as the large amount of water needed to excavate and refine it successfully.
Most family farmers and ranchers support developing a variety of energy resources from oil and gas to wind and solar to fuel our country and our own operations. Oil shale remains the one source many of us are most skeptical about. The research and previous oil shale extraction attempts and the 1982 bust showed us that oil shale development is a thirsty and pricey beast: even in big snowpack years there is no way that Colorado has enough water to feed that beast.
Recently, under the watchful eye of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, the Bureau of Land Management issued its final federal oil shale management regulations that provide a structure for any future development. The regulations will assure both a fair return to the taxpayers and environmental protections in any future development of oil shale on the public lands. The rule provides the secretary of the interior flexibility in setting royalty rates lease by lease, and it requires oil shale operations to include environmental protection plans for water, air and other resources.
If we ever do develop oil shale, it will put a new and significant demand on Colorado’s precious water resources; the impact to agriculture and local communities must be accounted for. Oil shale is not glitzy issue, but Sen. Bennet’s leadership has been crucial and I thank him.
President, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
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