When America’s energy debate calls for extracting oil from Colorado shale we know our politicians have missed the mark. Unfortunately, the most recent version of the House energy bill puts Colorado at risk for just such a disaster by fully repealing the moratorium on oil shale leasing. Worse, the bill asks industry for only voluntary environmental protections. Shale is a bad bet today and will be environmental disasters for decades to come.
Despite promises by politicians, industry admits that getting gasoline from oil shale is more than a decade away, meaning it won’t lower prices today. Even at peak production, Colorado shale will meet only a fraction of U.S. demand for oil, meaning it won’t help lower prices in the long run. That fraction will come at a high cost. The Interior Department, the agency that oversees oil shale resource, has stated that the social and environmental costs associated with oil shale development would likely be large. One cost, however, is already clear. A mature shale industry will require between 2.4 and 6 million gallons of water per day for mining and processing, and these would have to be senior water rights.
Oil shale is not the answer to securing energy independence. True energy independence means tapping into renewable, homegrown power like wind and solar and powering our cars trucks and cars from these resources. Some of these plug-in electric cars are already on Colorado’s roads. Our politicians in Washington should be passing bills that get us beyond oil by putting thousands more electric cars on the streets. Plug-in electric cars are a good investment today and a sensible solution to our energy crisis.