Continuing his efforts to cut wasteful spending, the House today adopted an amendment offered by Congressman Jared Polis slashing $25 million from failed oil shale research and redirecting these funds toward deficit reduction. A century of research has not provided a commercially viable technology that would produce oil from oil shale, in contrast to shale oil, which is currently enjoying a development boom.
"We shouldn't be throwing good money after bad on oil shale research that won't produce energy for the foreseeable future," said Polis. "Dumping another $25 million of taxpayer money into oil shale research makes no sense when there isn't commercially viable technology that will turn it into oil and many energy companies consider it such a low priority."
"After putting up billions for oil shale over the last several decades, federal taxpayers have nothing to show for it," said the president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, Ryan Alexander. "In these tight budget times, we cannot afford to continue throwing good money at failed technology."
Oil shale and shale oil sound similar, but they are completely different.
Oil shale is not commercially viable. Oil shale is a rock that contains a waxy substance, kerogen, that when intensely heated liquefies to produce a precursor to crude oil. Oil shale reserves in the U.S. are concentrated in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. The best available information reveals that commercial oil production from kerogen each year could consume up to 50 percent more water than the entire Denver Metro area consumes annually. This is a dangerous proposition for the arid West amid water shortages.
Shale oil, on the other hand, is commercially viable. Shale oil is liquid oil locked up in shale formations underlying Montana, North Dakota and a region of land stretching across Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas. Using techniques used in natural gas drilling, companies are able to recover the liquid oil.
In addition to Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Polis amendment was supported by the National Resource Defense Council, the Wildlife Society, Earthjustice, and Western Resource Advocates. The amendment was passed by a vote of 208-207.