Energy execs beg Congress to let them dig up the West for oil shale

“We can safely say of our future with regard to oil and gas, it has yet to see its brightest days,” said Rep. James Gibbons (R-Nev.) in a House subcommittee meeting yesterday. We know what you’re thinking: What the … ? Well, apparently Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming are sitting on top of lots and lots of oil shale, a porous rock soaked through with petroleum. In fact, the Green River Basin is estimated to contain over a trillion barrels of oil, enough to eliminate trans-Atlantic oil imports by 2025. Energy execs are champing at the bit to start digging, but farmers and conservationists in the West aren’t quite so gung-ho. The last big oil-shale boom, in the 1970s, went bust. Past oil-shale extraction methods have included underground nukes (!) and heavy mining, and though energy companies promise this time around they’ll be environmentally sensitive, similar promises about coalbed methane extraction yielded contaminated land and water. Tread lightly, warned Russ George of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, “but do tread.”