As a former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Senator Ken Salazar probably knows more about the subject of oil-shale development than any other member of Congress. So it's worth reading his op-ed in the Washington Post today for a balanced, realistic take on the prospect for commercial-scale shale development in the West. The bottom line is that while shale might hold some promise in the future, the technology for extracting oil from it needs a lot of work, as do environmental-mitigation strategies, and then there's the thorny ultimate question of carbon emissions. Research is ongoing, but it's counterproductive for the administration to pitch it as a short-term solution:
The governors of Wyoming and Colorado, communities and editorial boards across the West agree that the administration's headlong rush is a terrible idea. Even energy companies, including Chevron, have said we need to proceed more cautiously on oil shale. With more than 30,000 acres of public land at their disposal to conduct research, development and demonstration projects (in addition to 200,000 undeveloped acres of private oil shale lands they own in Colorado and Utah), they already have more land than they can develop in the foreseeable future.
We recently editorialized about the subject here.