Bush Boosts West's Oil Shale Development

Administration sides with energy over environment in one of its final decisions
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Administration sides with energy over environment in one of its final decisions

George W. Bush certainly isn't taking his lame-duck status to heart—instead of disappearing to Crawford for some brush clearing, he's continuing the pro-energy/anti-environment agenda that's defined much of his presidency. The NY Times reports that as one of their last executive directives, the Bush administration is fast-tracking new rules and regulations aimed at helping develop the oil shale industry in the Rocky Mountain west.

Environmentalists claim that Bush is using his final moments in power to hammer through legislation that allows the carbon emission-heavy, environmentally risky oil shale industry to begin mining and extracting oil from rock underneath vast tracts of BLM land in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. Fans of oil shale development point out that the projected (but highly speculative) 800 billion barrels of oil underneath these states could go some way to weaning our dependence on foreign oil.

“How can the administration write regulations for an industry that does not exist yet, using unknown technologies? They can’t,” said Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst for the National Resources Defense Council. “This is just a giveaway to special interests that will leave states to clean up the mess.”

Earlier this month, the Bush administration moved to open oil and gas lease programs in lands near Arches, Canyonlands, and Dinosaur National Monument without even consulting the National Park Service.

Ultimately, the next administration will decide whether to actually lease the federal land to oil shale developers or simply ignore Bush's new rules and let the land be. Despite their by-all-accounts cordial meeting at the White House, I'd imagine President-elect Obama might have a slight difference in opinion.

Do you think Obama should lease BLM land to oil shale developers? Have at it in the comments section below.

—Ted Alvarez

In Waning Hours, Bush Administration Fortifies Oil Shale Industry (NY Times)