September 29, 2008

Reid Tries to Reimpose Oil Shale Extraction Ban

By Steve Tetreault



WASHINGTON - Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is looking for openings to reimpose a ban on oil shale extraction in the West that is on the verge of expiring, aides confirmed Thursday.

A year-end spending bill the House passed this week would let the year-old moratorium expire Monday. That cheered Republicans and fossil energy advocates who see oil shale as a piece of an overall "energy freedom" strategy.

Reid is not a fan of oil shale energy production. Critics say the technology needed to extract oil from the sedimentary rock leads to even more greenhouse gases than conventional oil drilling, and also requires large amounts of water.

"Oil shale extraction has not proved to be economically viable," a Reid spokesman, Jon Summers, said Thursday. "We are all for domestic production, but this is not the best solution."

The moratorium forbids the Department of Interior from finalizing regulations for oil companies to pursue shale projects, which are mostly in Utah and Colorado.

Reid has drafted legislation to reimpose the moratorium. Summers could not say whether Reid might try to attach it when the House- passed bill is taken up by the Senate. Other Democrats said that was unlikely, because Congress must finish the bill by Oct. 1 or risk a government shutdown.

Reid introduced a separate bill on Thursday that would reimpose the oil shale ban. It was part of a stimulus bill that Democrats argue is necessary to boost the flagging economy.

The Senate stimulus bill would send $20 billion to states to boost Medicaid payments and to extend unemployment benefits for seven weeks in all states, and 13 weeks in states with high jobless rates. But President Bush and most Republicans oppose the stimulus.

If no opportunities arise this year, Reid may look to halt shale oil development next year, Summers said.

Rep. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and other backers contend oil shale holds between 800 billion and 2 trillion barrels of oil, more than three times the reserves in Saudi Arabia.

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