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BLM Takes a Second Look at WYO Oil Shale Possibilities

April 28, 2011

ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. - Oil-shale development possibilities on public lands in Wyoming are getting a fresh look from the Bureau of Land Management.

A hearing is set for Friday in Rock Springs, and meetings also are being held in Colorado and Utah.

While oil shale often is touted as a solution to feeding the nation's energy needs, energy analyst Randy Udall says those claims are based on a misunderstanding. It's neither "oil" nor "shale," he says, and it has never been produced at a large-scale commercial site in the U.S. because of difficulties in getting the oil-like substance out of underground rock.

"We've been trying to do this for 100 years. It hasn't worked. The prospect of commercial leasing in my view seems very premature since we don't have a single technology that's ready to go."

Udall, co-founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil - USA, says oil companies have spent billions of dollars trying to find ways to access the substance, called kerogen, which can be transformed into oil products. Experimental projects have focused either on mining the rock, crushing it and heating it - or on cooking rock underground to liquefy the kerogen.

Wyoming resident and fisherman Bill Klyn wants the push for development to slow down. The BLM estimates that development of an oil-shale site could require digging, large amounts of electricity and up to 378,000 acre feet of water per year, Klyn says.

"Obviously, this promises to be a very intrusive process. Of further importance is the prospect of using huge amounts of water, which in Wyoming is becoming more scarce."

About 2 million acres in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah were outlined by the BLM as possible oil-shale development zones in 2008.

Friday's hearing will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. at the BLM's Rock Springs field office, 280 U.S. Highway 191 North. The Cheyenne hearing will be from 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. May 5 at the Holiday Inn, 204 W. Fox Farm Road.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY