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Action Alert: Just Say No to Oil Shale, Leave the Carbon in the Ground

Oil shale production in Western U.S. with Department of Energy subsidies will prolong dependence upon filthy fossil fuels while destroying the climate, water and land

By Climate Ark, a project of EcoInternet - January 25, 2008

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Additional Background

Oil shale deposits across 17,000 square miles of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming hold an estimated 800 billion barrels of oil, more than three times Saudi Arabia's stated reserves. The relatively high cost of producing oil from oil shale has meant that full-scale commercial production has never been economically feasible. With crude oil prices at record highs and conventional oil resources diminishing, the US Government's Energy and Interior Departments want to jump-start oil shale production, with predictably disastrous environmental consequences.

Both mining and processing of oil shale involve a variety of environmental impacts. There is no oil in oil shale, instead it is a substance called kerogen, which is solid and cannot be pumped directly out of the ground. The oil shale must either first be mined and then heated to a high temperature, or heated while still underground and then pumped to the surface as a liquid, a still experimental process. Vast amounts of water are required in the mining process, up to 4 barrels of water for every barrel of oil, a major problem in the western USA which already has water shortages. The process produces four times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions compared to normal oil production. There is enormous disturbance over large areas of mined land, threatening wildlife and flora. The large amounts of waste material produced contain toxic materials.

It would be a reckless and short-sighted to allow full-scale commercial production of synthetic crude oils from oil shale and other non-conventional sources. Wide scale use of such oil will result in decades of further carbon emissions from dependence upon fossil fuels, making it impossible to stop climate change. In the U.S. more than 70% of the total oil shale acreage is under federally owned and managed lands, which means that politicians in Washington D.C. will make the final decision. Please send a message today noting that a sustainable energy future does not include oil shale.

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