Published: Feb. 8, 2010

On Friday, Colorado Law’s Natural Resources Law Center (NRLC) hosted “The Promise and Peril of Oil Shale” symposium to debate the issues involving oil shale development.Oil shale is a type of sedimentary rock that contains kerogen, which can be processed to make crude oil. Currently, companies are leasing land in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming for the research and development of technology to tap into shale oil deposits.Although kerogen is an alternative to traditional U.S. oil sources, it is expensive to manufacture and has a higher environmental impact than the traditional sources.One of the symposium’s highlights was a discussion by Alan Gilbert, senior adviser to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Along with the Obama administrations “deliberate” approach to oil shale development, Gilbert discussed a “second-wave” of requests from three companies: ExxonMobile, Natural Soda, and AuraSource, requesting more land for research and development.Gilbert explained that the Department of the Interior currently is researching these issues to determine whether oil shale mining is feasible in the United States.Other notable speakers included Patty Limerick, from the University of Colorado’s Center of the American West, who discussed the history of oil shale development and what that history indicates for the future. In panel discussion, Randy Udall, co-founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas-USA, commented that the century-long attempt to extract shale oil has been “the Colorado oil shale follies, a long-running play.”View a conference video and speakers' power point presentations at the NRLC past events website.