By Jessica Goad
Along with a number of cuts to renewable energy and increases for fossil fuels, the bill text includes $25 million for the Department of Energy’s “Unconventional Fossil Energy Technologies” including unproven oil shale — one of the dirtiest forms of energy in existence.
A political fight is brewing on this front. As Politico reported:
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) will introduce an amendment cutting $25 million from DOE’s Fossil Energy Research and Development program for research into oil shale, a type of rock that, when heated, gives off oil. The committee report notes that estimates say there’s the equivalent of 2 trillion barrels of oil in that rock, but the industry has not been able to make the process commercially viable for years.
Oil shale — not to be confused with shale oil like the Bakken formation in North Dakota — is an unproven technology still in the research and development phase. It involves heating up rocks to high temperatures and melting the oil out of them. A number of companies have been attempting to produce oil shale for decades, with no commercial success. Even if the technology were to be viable, oil shale would be a complete disaster for the climate.
While House Republicans’ throw support behind a dirty, unproven oil extraction technology, they continue to drag their heels on a key tax credit for the wind industry set to expire at the end of the year. Without this tax credit, wind developers face major policy uncertainty — potentially threatening up to 37,000 jobs. As former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm put it:
[Speaker John] Boehner [R-OH] has repeatedly hounded the president about an all-of-the-above energy strategy. So it seems weird for Republicans to be picking energy “winners and losers.” How is it that they can vote to extend tax credits for oil but not for wind?
In addition to stalling on the production tax credit, some Republicans have been lobbing attacks on renewable energy in the energy and water spending bill itself. Last week, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) offered an amendment to completely defund the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The amendment failed, with 107 Republicans voting against it. Additionally, a number of amendments to boost funding for renewable energy failed, such as one Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA) that would move $50 million from fossil fuels research to renewable energy research.
Jessica is the Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.