Ken Brenner: Northwest Colorado needs energy sense
November 3, 2010
Steamboat Springs — 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"?