Thursday, October 19, 2006

Richard Pombo: Oily Favors

Here is an editorial from today's New York Times:
Mr. Pombo’s Map

Published: October 19, 2006

When you add up the energy resources of the American West, one of the biggest items in the ledger is oil shale — rock formations containing deposits that can be distilled, by heating, into oil. The estimate of the petroleum locked up in these deposits is enormous: perhaps 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil, most of it in the Green River Formation, which lies beneath Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

The processes for extracting oil shale are still hugely expensive — which is fortunate, because the potential environmental costs are staggering. You can pump oil from oil shale by heating the underground formations, with untold effect on groundwater. Or you can dig it all up, cart it away and heat it somewhere else, scarring vast tracts of the West.

None of this has stopped Congressman Richard Pombo of California — champion of the idea that we can drill our way to energy independence — from throwing yet another economic bone to the energy sector. In a little-noticed provision of the much- reviled Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act — which the House passed in June and the Senate will take up when Congress returns — Mr. Pombo lowered the royalty rate for oil shale from 12.5 percent to 1 percent. Should the day arrive when the price of shale oil becomes competitive, this could turn out to be an extraordinary giveaway of federal revenue (most oil shale lies under federal land) and a huge incentive to wreak environmental damage.

None of this is surprising. Mr. Pombo, who is chairman of the House Resources Committee and is facing a tight race for re-election, has been well- financed by oil and gas producers. He has done his best to give away public resources and throw away prudent restraints on energy exploration.

We believe that this country must pursue energy independence. But unlike Mr. Pombo, we believe that there is a vibrant new economy to be found in conservation and that is where our future lies. When we try to envision the America that Mr. Pombo has mapped out for us, all we can see is a nation committed to devouring itself, one barrel of oil at a time.


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