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Page added on December 30, 2008

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Energy dispute over Rockies riches

A trove of oil shale may be a boon. But the science to extract fuel is imperfect, and locals worry about their water supplies, which ultimately feed Southern California reservoirs.

Reporting from Salt Lake City — A titanic battle between the West’s two traditional power brokers — Big Oil and Big Water — has begun.

At stake is one of the largest oil reserves in the world, a vast cache trapped beneath the Rocky Mountains containing an estimated 800 billion barrels — about three times the reserves of Saudi Arabia.

Extracting oil from rocky seams of underground shale is not only expensive, but also requires massive amounts of water, a precious resource crucial to continued development in the nation’s fastest-growing region.

The conflict between oil and water interests has now come to a head. On Oct. 31, Congress allowed a moratorium on oil shale leasing to expire. That paved the way for the Bush administration to finalize leasing rules last month that opened 2 million acres of federal land to exploration.

Oil companies say that at a time of increasing foreign oil dependence, it would be unconscionable to forgo exploiting oil shale’s potential.

LA Times

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