Mr Secretary of Interior, Oil Shale Development Can Never Be Environmentally Sustainable

oil shale photo

From the US National Archives caption: You've got to heat this rock to 900°F to get out some oil. Hyper energy-intensive? Oh yeah.

While the EPA has been doing some good things to reign in mountaintop removal coal mining, over at the Department of Interior things aren't always so green. Case in point: Trying to spin developing US oil shale reverses as something remotely environmentally sustainable: While the Secretary of the Interior has done a number of positive things furthering development of renewable energy in his tenure, he's also shown what seems to be a contradictory affection for oil shale -- the production of which, like Alberta's tar sands, really can't ever be considered environmentally friendly.

In a press release Secretary Salazar said,

For the last century, Americans have been working to find the keys to the vast kerogen reserves that are locked up in Western shale. If we are to succeed in unlocking oil shale's great potential, we must first answer fundamental questions about water use, and environmental and social impacts of commercial development.

This is all part of the latest round of research, development and demonstration leases, which are being touted as a "reform the nation's oil shale program." Which sounds good, except if your idea of reform is shutting it down.

If the idea is transition to a low-carbon economy, and make renewable energy development a "top priority" as Secretary Salazar has said, furthering federal support of oil shale development is a big step in the opposite direction.

The answers to the fundamental eco-sustainability questions that Salazar says are crucial have already been established: Oil shale development is hugely water intensive, with reserves located in parts of the US already under drought conditions; its is hugely carbon intensive, with emissions several times greater than conventional oil reserves; if you consider just the climate change impact, the social effects are equally bad.

So, three strikes -- oil shale should be out.

Read the release: Salazar Reforms US Oil Shale Program
Oil Shale & Tar Sands
Dept of Interior Hearts Oil Shale: Has 'Great Potential' Salazar Says
Take Action: Tell the Secretary of Interior No, On More Oil Shale Development
Economic, Environmental Costs of Developing Tar Sands & Oil Shale Unthinkable
Oil Shale Plant Power by 'Clean Coal' - and Cooled by Colorado River Water?

Related Content on