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Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Economic Recovery for The Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2008--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. DOMENICI. Mr. President, with the backdrop of gas prices soaring to new heights this past summer and the specter of sending a half a trillion dollars to overseas to purchase oil from foreign regimes, I am told that the majority leader seeks to reinstate a moratorium on final regulations for the commercialization of oil shale. Ironically he is doing it on a bill that is being called a stimulus. Well, it certainly won't stimulate domestic production of energy. If brought to fruition it will give the majority in the Senate the dubious distinction of being even more antiproduction than the majority in the House.

I have heard my friends on the other side say that they are not standing in the way of oil shale, but at the same time, they are doing exactly that. In the next sentence, they argue that there is nothing about oil shale that will bring relief to the American consumers. I find it difficult to understand these statements, and so do a majority of Americans. Over the summer, the majority did everything it could to obstruct our efforts in increase domestic production. The majority cancelled an appropriations committee markup to avoid the issue of drilling on the OCS and developing Western oil shale. They prevented a real debate and a real vote on energy. Finally, we saw a breakthrough from the House. After dodging the energy reality for months, they passed a continuing resolution without the moratorium on oil shale regulations and without the moratorium on the OCS. This was a great development and not one we should turn back by reimposing an oil shale ban.

Several recent polls inform us that a strong and growing majority of the American people want to us to produce more of our own American energy resources. The development of Western oil shale will not be upon us today, but an indefensible moratorium on regulations will ensure that the development of oil shale will not be upon us tomorrow, either. And, therefore, relief for the American people will be delayed as well. Let me tell you what I know about oil shale, and the moratorium that the other side supports.

Oil shale is a rock from which oil can be extracted through technologies such as in-situ heating and surface retorting. I have been out to Colorado and I have seen the vast commitments that private industries are making to help make oil shale production a reality in this country. But make no mistake about it--with this moratorium, the other side seeks to stand in the way of that progress.

The USGS estimates that there is a potential total of 2.1 trillion barrels of resource in the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The Strategic Unconventional Fuels Task Force and Rand Corporation have estimated that 800 billion barrels of oil equivalent is technically recoverable. This is enough to replace the amount of oil we currently import at today's pace for more than 160 years. With oil prices above the $100 mark for a sustained period of time and with technologies advancing rapidly, the potential development of large quantities of oil shale is a reality. American companies stand ready to continue the necessary work, but a moratorium placed on oil shale casts a large shadow of uncertainty. We must remove that shadow immediately.

In 2005, we passed the Energy Policy Act. Working across party lines in both the Senate and the House, Senator BINGAMAN and I brought together broad bipartisan support behind a conference report that each and every Senator from the Western oil shale States supported. In that bill we set up an oil shale pilot program with research and development leases. We also set forth a time frame for the development of final regulations for commercial leasing. This does not mean that commercial leasing would begin now, but what it does mean is that companies that need to make long-term planning decisions on where to make significant capital investments have a clear sense of rules of the road for future Western oil shale leasing.

If these regulations were completed, companies could be provided with certainty and stability. Recently, Chevron joined other companies who have publicly called for the lifting of the moratorium on oil shale regulations. The final regulations would provide a road-map on diligence requirements, royalty rates, conversion fees, and operating and environmental requirements such as reclamation requirements. Both private industry and localities would know the terms and conditions necessary for this American energy project. That is why we included this provision in the bipartisan 2005 Energy bill. Two years after that bill passed, along came an appropriations moratorium quietly written into a large omnibus spending bill. In other words, Congress has prevented the Department of the Interior from doing the work necessary to make oil shale a reality. Shell Oil Company recently testified before the Senate Energy Committee that, ``the extension of this moratorium on potential future development of America's vast oil shale resource may be intended to become permanent in nature. The extension of this moratorium may well have a chilling effect on our efforts to develop this resource in the future.'' I could not agree more with this assessment.

Additionally, the Department of the Interior recently testified that finalizing oil shale regulations is a critical component to realize the vast potential of our Western oil shale resource. Assistant Secretary Allred stated that, ``absent the certainty that final regulations would bring, the commercial oil shale industry may not be willing to invest the necessary dollars for research, and this vast domestic resource will remain untapped at a time when our Nation is searching for ways to further its energy security.'' And recently Utah's Governor--a voice from on the ground--requested that Congress remove this moratorium, writing, ``I recommend lifting those restrictions. Utah is home not only to substantial oil shale reserves ..... but also to businesses willing to develop oil shale using new technology that will make extraction cleaner and more efficient. We have State and Federal regulators who are capable of ensuring that this resource is developed in an environmentally responsible manner.'' So, despite this coalition of industry, local support, and a Federal agency eager to do the necessary work, and now even the Speaker and the majority in the House--the majority in the Senate is asking us to stand in the way of this progress.

For all of the above reasons, I introduced a bill in May that lifts this unnecessary and harmful oil shale moratorium. We pushed and proded and pushed some more until the House majority listened to the American people. Now, I am sending the same message to the Senate. Ending this moratorium would send a message to the world that America is serious about Western oil shale development. I urge my colleagues on the other side to reaffirm their bipartisan commitments made during the Energy bill of 2005 and help us join the House in removing the oil shale moratorium. If we do that, we will take a step in the right direction of reducing our great dependence on foreign oil and we will strengthen our Nation's energy security.

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