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Squeezing Oil from Wyoming Rocks

March 24, 2008

Casper, WY – Squeezing oil from stone. That's being promoted as the next generation of oil development for Wyoming, as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to put millions of acres of public lands up for lease for oil shale production.

However, David Alberswerth, energy policy expert with The Wilderness Society, says that, while shale may be an oil source in the future, it's untimely for the federal government to be selling leases for shale land now. He says oil companies admit that the technology to get the oil out of the rock safely and economically has not yet been developed.

"We shouldn't go whole hog into leasing vast amounts of public lands before we get a better idea of what those technologies are, what the environmental problems may be."

Oil shale development companies say there's more oil in rock in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado than in all of Saudi Arabia's oil fields. However, Alberswerth says the current technology for extracting it is destructive to land, water and cultural sites, and the process uses a lot of energy to pulverize, heat and squeeze the rock.

Congress has even tried to put the brakes on oil shale development, passing a measure prohibiting finalization of an oil shale program, although Alberswerth says there is a lot of industry pressure to lift that ban before the end of this year.

"What we hope is that Congress stands firm against the pressure from the oil shale proponents to change the current statute."

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - WY