Book Cliffs
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The mining is planned for Utah’s Book Cliffs.

Environmentalists are, unsurprisingly, not happy about a scheme to strip-mine parts of the Utah desert and toast them at 725 degrees for months on end to get at oil shale deposits.

Oil shale doesn’t actually contain oil, but it can be processed into synthetic oil via an elaborate and expensive process. This Utah project would be the first oil shale mine in the U.S.

Environmental groups are ratcheting up their fight against the plans. Here are the details from a press release put out Wednesday by the Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, and three other groups:

Oil shale strip mining atop Utah’s Book Cliffs is being challenged by conservation groups. The challenge is a “request for agency action” filed Tuesday, over the ground water discharge permit approved by the Utah Department of Water Quality. The permit, which authorizes Red Leaf Resources to test an oil shale mining facility, lacks measures to prevent or detect surface or groundwater pollution, in violation of state law. …

“The scheme used by Red Leaf Resources is basically the same as it was for failed ventures a century ago: mine it, crush it, sort it, put it in an oven, heat it, gather the liquid into a sump, hope that it doesn’t burn the facility down, and get it to a refinery before it congeals,” said John Weisheit, conservation director with Living Rivers.

Red Leaf Resources is dismissing the environmentalists as carbon haters. Deseret News reports:

Jeff Hartley, Red Leaf’s spokesman, said the objection by the environmental groups is less about water and more about energy philosophy.

“My response to criticism of oil shale is that either you hate carbon-based energies or you don’t. And if you hate carbon-based energy sources, you will never like oil shale,” he said. “And if you realize that oil, gas and coal are part of our energy portfolio, you have to embrace oil shale, that it will be successful, and that is what Red Leaf will prove out.” …

Hartley said the goal is for Red Leaf to be producing 300,000 barrels of oil by the end of 2015 — representing the world’s first commercial production of oil shale in decades.

No, Mr. Hartley, to “realize” that gas and oil are currently a part of our energy portfolio most certainly does not mean that one has to “embrace oil shale.” That’s some bullshit logic.