By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Today, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals will debate a proposal to jump start oil shale production, which could be one of the dirtiest forms of energy in existence if it were to become viable. Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn’s (R-CO) bill would codify midnight regulations on oil shale that the Bush administration passed just as it was leaving office in early 2009.
You’re not alone if you haven’t heard of oil shale, which should not be confused with the viable energy producer “shale oil.” In order to develop the oil shale, a type of rock, power plants must be built to heat the rock up to nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and produce crude oil that still needs to be refined. This takes a large amount of energy and money, as well as 3-5 barrels of water per barrel of oil produced, a dangerous issue in the parched West.
Politicians and oil companies have extolled the virtue of this “new” form of energy since the early 1900s, yet not a single barrel of oil from oil shale has been commercially sold. That does not stop today’s politicians and oil CEOs from using the same language as their decades old predecessors. In a field hearing this summer, the Checks and Balances Project developed a bingo card with old-timey oil shale phrases — all of which but one were used. You can follow along today to see if the same arguments are used yet again (click on the card for a larger version).
Oil companies and proponents of oil shale claim it can “solve our energy crisis,” and Lamborn recently claimed that it is “one of America’s greatest natural resources.” Yet, despite decades of experimentation and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, oil shale has never been produced commercially in the United States. Even the director of the Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research admitted that:
All of the major companies are doing oil shale because they think it’s an interesting and high-potential area, but they’re not in a hurry to make it productive…
Oil companies already have research and development leases on public lands, but they now seeking even more public lands on which to experiment. Lamborn’s bill continues to reward dirty fossil fuel companies for chasing what some have called “the petroleum equivalent of fool’s gold.” Throughout his career, Lamborn has received $126,962 from the oil and gas industry.
On Wednesday, House Natural Resource Committee Republicans held their 20th oversight hearing on how to drill more. In addition to oil shale, todays legislative hearing will feature bills to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and to mandate offshore oil and gas lease sales.