Bookmark and Share

More press releases

For Immediate Release, June 27, 2008

Contact: Amy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity, (541) 914-8372,

Statement of the Center for Biological Diversity
on the Gas Price Reduction Act of 2008

Gas Price Reduction Act Should Be Called
“The Western Water Reduction Act”;

Does Nothing to Lower Gas Prices

A closer look at Senate Republicans’ newest gas-price reduction scheme reveals that oil shale would require at least 30 years to achieve meaningful production, and only then result in a 4-percent reduction in the price of oil. And it would cost the equivalent of 40 years’ use of the nation’s use of Colorado River water to do it.

Senate Republicans pull their “Saudi Arabia of Shale” figure of 800 billion barrels from a 2005 RAND report on oil shale. That report — which was commissioned by the Bush administration’s own Department of Energy — also states that it will take at least 30 years to reach a production target of 3 million barrels of oil per day, amounting to only a 3- to 5-percent reduction in oil prices. And that’s assuming OPEC doesn’t simply roll back production to keep prices high.

“The notion that developing oil shale will somehow reduce gas prices in either the short or long term is absurd,” according to Amy Atwood of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Oil-shale production would also reduce western water availability. The RAND report states that each barrel of oil produced from shale will cost the nation three barrels of water, equal to the amount of Colorado River water allocated to California, Arizona, and Nevada over more than 40 years. This comes at a time when the West is facing extreme global warming-induced water shortages. Already, Lake Mead has reached record low water levels; western water managers have been scrambling to keep the tap on.

“Particularly in this era of global warming, the West’s dwindling water resources should not be allocated to developing this unconventional and highly energy intensive fossil fuel,” said Atwood. “This bill should be named the ‘Western Water Reduction Act,’ ” she said.

Oil-shale development would result in the destruction of western public lands — including some of the nation’s best recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, and rare plants found nowhere else in the world. “The proposal would turn large tracts of habitat into carbon-emitting industrial wastelands,” said Atwood. “It’s hard to imagine a worse use of our public lands in an era of global warming and species decline.”

Oil shale is also one of the world’s most greenhouse-gas-intensive energy sources. The Center for Biological Diversity is dedicated to ensuring that atmospheric carbon dioxide pollutant levels are reduced to below 350 parts per million (ppm), which leading climate scientists warn is necessary to prevent devastating climate change. Further development of greenhouse-intensive energy sources, including oil shale, tar sands, and coal-fired power plants, is fundamentally incompatible with achieving this goal. If greenhouse emissions are not immediately reduced, the current atmospheric carbon dioxide level of 385 ppm will rise to approximately 500 ppm by mid-century, triggering mass wildlife extinctions, catastrophic global weather and ecosystem changes, and tragic human suffering.

The Calculations:

3 barrels of water per barrel of oil
800 billion barrels of oil equals 2.4 trillion barrels of water
1 barrel (of oil) equals 42 gallons
2.4 trillion barrels equals 100 trillion gallons of water
1 acre-foot of water equals 325,851 gallons of water
100 trillion gallons of water equals 307 million acre-feet of water
California, Arizona and Nevada are allotted 7.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water per year


Go back