As the House resumes consideration of the fiscal 2013 energy and water appropriations bill today, a Western Democrat wants to ensure that the government does not spend any money researching oil shale extraction.
That amendment, expected to be debated as soon as this afternoon, is one of several controversial measures lawmakers will try to attach to the spending bill, including Republican attempts to continue a ban on enforcing efficiency standards for light bulbs.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) plans to offer an amendment to the spending bill that would eliminate $25 million from the Department of Energy’s fossil energy research and development budget that would be directed to oil shale development. House appropriators recommended that the money be spent “to improve the economics of oil production” and “reduce the health, safety and environmental risks associated with” oil shale extraction, according to the Appropriations Committee report accompanying the bill.
Polis’ amendment would eliminate those funds and order that the proceeds be used for deficit reduction. The amendment is not Polis’ first effort to dial back support for the practice; earlier this year, he failed in an effort to amend a separate energy bill to remove shale-promoting language (E&E Daily, Feb. 16).
Oil shale deposits in western Colorado, southwestern Wyoming and northeastern Utah — not to be confused with the shale oil being produced in places such as North Dakota’s Bakken field — are believed to contain more than a trillion barrels of crude equivalent but are yet to be economically developed. Kerogen in oil shale rocks must be heated for a prolonged period to temperatures exceeding 750 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be ready for refinement, a process that requires an abundance of fuel and water in the arid West. Exxon Mobil Corp. abruptly canceled an oil shale project near Parachute, Colo., in 1982, shedding more than 2,000 jobs in an event known locally as “Black Sunday.”
In contrast, production of shale oil and gas has seen tremendous growth in North Dakota, Texas and Pennsylvania thanks to advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
But Republicans and industry backers say there are massive potential reserves available in oil shale deposits in states like Colorado and Utah if only the technology can be developed to extract them economically and safely.