Ken Brenner: Northwest Colorado needs energy sense


— In the wake of the BP disaster in the Gulf, many Amer­icans are looking for cleaner sources of energy that carry less potential for pollution. However, living in the West still means sharing our land, air and water with fossil fuel development.

We need a guarantee that when commercial energy production does take place in the future, our agricultural way of life, wildlife and water supply will not be compromised.

The Department of the Interior last week announced the names of the companies that will receive additional public land to research new technologies for oil shale. Oil shale, for those unfamiliar, is a potential fuel source — and has been for more than 100 years. Despite considerable investments and access to our public lands, energy companies have yet to develop a commercially successful process to extract the oil from rock.

Many locals familiar with oil shale’s history refer to it as “the energy source of the future, and it always will be.”

Many experts have expressed concern about the impacts of large-scale oil shale production to our water, air, agriculture and public health. We want those impacts to be fully addressed, including those to neighboring communities.

There also should be a successful research project to measure the effects before we lease our public lands. That is just common sense.

The Bureau of Land Management has estimated that commercial oil shale production could consume large amounts of precious water in the West, cause significant air and water pollution, and forever change agricultural lands and critical wildlife habitat. In Northwest Colorado, we must consider whether that is a risk worth taking. Are we going to become the national sacrifice zone for energy production?

There already are strains on our water supply. The Colorado River is the water supply for millions of residents in Colorado and six other Western states. Any threat to our supply is enough reason for concern.

There must be a balanced approach to development of our oil, oil shale and natural gas resources in the U.S. and in Colorado. A practical approach would produce the energy we need as a nation and, at the same time, maintain our agricultural heritage, protect public health, keep our air clean and safeguard our drinking water.

Many think that we would be better off with proven energy sources that can produce energy with less risk of impacts to our water supply.

In the past several days, Inter­­ior Secretary Ken Salazar announced new leases for solar and wind projects on our public lands. I appreciate his efforts in that area and look forward to the jobs that come with those industries.

We owe it to future generations to produce energy sensibly. We need to ask ourselves, “Is the juice worth the squeeze”?


sledneck 6 years, 6 months ago

The market (all invested parties bringing all their experiance and expectations) asks and answers that question every moment of the day. That's why we use the energy sources we use in the proportions we now use them. The market decided crude oil was better than whale oil. It decided light bulbs were better than candles, cars were better than horses and so on...

The other question we should ask (and more important in my opinoin) is why throw increasingly and disproportionately huge sums of money into removing smaller and less consequential amounts of "pollution" from all walks of life! Especially when those same dollars, directed elsewhere, could raise the quality of life far more significantly for far more people.

Simply saying "cleaner is better" without counting the costs (in dollars and human lives) is just as foolish as saying cheap energy production is all that matters.

On one end of the spectrum is unacceptable pollution levels because energy is the only thing that matters. But on the other end is a spotlessly clean world that is starving to death and freezing to death because NO amount of "pollution" was acceptable and we spent ALL our money cleaning it up and had none left for food, clothing, shelter, etc.

There is a middle ground and educated market participants usually find it. When gas returns to $4 or goes to $8 (which it will) it will not take some government regulation to get the market more interested in renewables. And the taxpayers won't have to fund the reasearch.


JeremyBoak 6 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Brenner states,
"Many experts have expressed concern about the impacts of large-scale oil shale production to our water, air, agriculture and public health." Any process that potentially involves a large area and an industrial scale of operation should raise concerns about environmental impacts. I am not aware of any actual experts on oil shale production who have expressed concerns that the environmental regulations of this country could not adequately protect the environment of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, should completion of a research and development program show that oil could be produced economically from oil shale. I have not seen any document that suggests that oil shale production could "forever change agricultural lands and critical wildlife habitat."

Any development of oil shale in the West is likely to occur at a relatively moderate pace, with advancement of the technology constantly informing analysis of the potential environmental impact. As a nation, we no longer operate the way we did a century ago. Although the potential of oil shale as an energy source has been recognized for centuries, and utilized for more than a century, new technological approaches are being developed that warrant testing in the current program of RD&D leasing. To suggest that the final answer on technology impact is needed before that testing can even start would be an impediment to advancement of any technology. Perhaps we should not further develop biofuels because the water requirements are substantially larger than even those for oil shale.

Mr. Brenner seems to feel that if a technology hasn't taken off as a major supplier to the world yet, it shouldn't be allowed to. By this logic, wind power, which has been harnessed for hundreds of years, but still accounts for a very small fraction of the energy used in the world, should have been abandoned as not useful some years ago. I don't subscribe to that approach. I think a variety of technology options should be explored, without the government picking winners. If oil shale production is economic and can meet the environmental regulations we have, it should be allowed to develop.

Assertions about National Sacrifice Zones are not well-founded in fact, and should not be used to cloud discussion. There are legitimate environmental concerns about this resource, and they are discussed seriously and rationally at meetings like the 30th Oil Shale Symposium, recently conducted at the Colorado School of Mines, where real experts convene to identify and discuss scientific, technical, legal, and political issues. It is surprising to see the eagerness of some commentators to weigh in on this issue without having bothered to find out what is actually going on.

Jeremy Boak, Co-Chair 30th Oil Shale Symposium


Jeff_Kibler 6 years, 6 months ago

Jeremy, excellent rebuttal. It's nice to hear from someone that knows what he's talking about.

Ken states "We need a guarantee that ..." How incredibly naive.
Death and taxes, those are guaranteed. Not much more.

We need a guarantee that Ken Brenner is never elected to public office again.


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