Salazar: oil shale development on the table

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The Obama administration will push an energy plan that includes solar, wind, geothermal, oil and gas and potentially oil shale, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Sunday.

Salazar, who halted leases for oil and gas development on some federal lands in Utah earlier this month, said that while the administration will focus on energy efficiency and renewable sources, there is still room for conventional fuels. Oil shale, he added, still has "great potential," and he may revise rules on harvesting that energy source "in the near term."

"We intend to move forward with a comprehensive energy plan," Salazar told a bipartisan group of Western governors huddled in Washington for a national summit. "You should take away from this conference in Washington that the Obama administration is not against developing any of those resources. … Let's put everything on the table."

Salazar, a former Colorado senator, previously pushed for limits in congressional legislation on tapping oil shale in his home state, Utah and Wyoming out of concern that the development may scar the landscape.

He said Sunday the Bush administration rules on oil shale, approved in the last days of the president's second term, were "misplaced" and he's looking at what the Interior Department's "legal options are," with regard to those decisions. He said he hopes to make his own decisions on where to take development of the energy source within the first six months of President Barack Obama's term.

Carol Browner, the White House's czar on energy and climate change, carried a similar message to the governors Sunday morning, saying there are "many things" the administration needs to learn from how governors are acting on energy issues.

"You guys are doing incredible work in this field and in many ways, I think it's the states that have been leading the way when it comes to energy and climate security," she said.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who chairs the Western Governors Association and is a proponent of oil shale development, said he was encouraged the administration is looking at all forms of energy.

"It's foolish to dismiss any options at this point," Huntsman said.

Supporters of oil shale development say the West holds more potential energy than the Middle East, while detractors say there is no technology available yet to commercially produce the energy source and there's no reason to rush to development. Oil shale is a sedimentary rock that proponents say can be heated to produce a chemical compound that can be used as a synthetic oil source.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, who mirrors Salazar's take on oil shale, said the deposits in the West are a resource that should still be considered but "we should just be prudent in how we develop it."

"It's heartening to me that [Salazar is] going to be thoughtful and that he'll only allow oil shale to be developed when the technology is such that we can also protect our air and our water and our wildlife," Ritter said.