July 10, 2006

Salazar Backs Gulf Coast Drilling To Avoid Colorado Exploitation

Or something to that effect:
Standing in front of a Denver gas station sign advertising $2.95 for a gallon of regular unleaded, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar on Thursday threw his support behind legislation that would open federal lands off Florida's Gulf Coast to further oil and gas drilling.

Colorado should not shoulder the burden of domestic oil and gas production, Salazar said.

"The effect it will have on Colorado, it'll help us deal with this energy crisis that we find ourselves in," the Democrat said of the Gulf Coast drilling plan. "The $3 a gallon that we're seeing in gas stations around the state of Colorado is indicative of what's happened with (an) energy problem that's gotten out of control the last several years."

. . .

The offshore drilling bill, sponsored by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., would open up about 3.6 million acres in Lease-Sale Area 181, a section of the Gulf of Mexico near Florida that holds an estimated 930 million barrels of oil and 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to recent estimates by the Minerals Management Service.

Proponents say the added production would ease rising energy prices. But Florida officials along with many environmental groups oppose the bill and are determined to block further oil drilling near the Sunshine State's coastline. The legislation is expected to be debated on the Senate floor later this month.

"We should always remind ourselves that Colorado should not be the sacrificed zone for the United States of America as we develop our oil and gas resources," Salazar said. "We have about 3.4 million acres of public lands in Colorado today subject to oil and gas leasing. We have almost 30,000 oil and gas wells that have been drilled and are in production across the state of Colorado. The state of Colorado is seeing very significant impacts."
Apparently, Salazar caught wind of the vast oil shale deposit that makes up a significant portion of Colorado's Western Slope:
There is no dispute that a thousand feet below the isolated ranch country here on Colorado's western slope lie almost unimaginable oil riches. It's locked in sedimentary rock - essentially immature oil that given a few million years under heat and pressure would produce pools of oil easy to extract.

The Energy Department and private industry estimate that a trillion barrels are here in Colorado - about the same amount as the entire world's known reserves of conventional oil. The entire Green River Formation might hold as much as 2 trillion barrels.

Pushed by the Bush administration and legislation from Congress last year, and spurred by oil prices above $70 a barrel, the energy industry is mobilizing to unlock the secret of oil shale. As it has before, oil shale holds out the hope of a USA no longer dependent on foreign oil.
The prospect of oil shale riches came around a few decades ago and ended badly--but this time around, the outlook appears better on paper, and perhaps this is why Salazar would prefer shifting domestic oil research to the Gulf Coast, rather than his (our) backyard.

Instead of playing NIMBY (not in my backyard), Salazar should encouragement gradual but deliberate exploration of both areas, as the market and private industry decide the best method/game plan for oil extraction. Neither area should be exploited with reckless abandon nor fenced off in permanent inutility. The promise, though, of strategic reserve capabilities and market leveraging supplies of oil in the event of a price spike should be impetus enough to provide the go ahead in either scenario.

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