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TheStreet Open House

Hall Bill To Create Millions In New Taxpayer Handouts For Oil Shale Just As Taxpayer Report Finds That Billions Already Risked On Failed Experiments

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Last month, Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) introduced a bill (H.R. 6603) to create $50 million in new taxpayer-funded handouts for oil shale speculation.

Hall's bill arrived just as a new report, Subsidizing Oil Shale, from Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog, revealed that billions of taxpayer dollars have been risked on failed oil shale experiments over the last century.

According to the report, nearly $7 billion in taxpayer-funded handouts were made available to oil companies to commercialize oil shale in the 1980s. Yet, oil shale has never been a viable commercial product.

"We need the government to stop gambling our taxpayer dollars on costly oil shale speculation," said Autumn Hanna, senior program director, Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The report comes in advance of draft commercial regulations for oil shale development on public lands that are expected to be released in late 2012. The regulations will determine the percentage return, or royalty rate, to taxpayers for developing the publicly-owned oil shale deposits.

Despite oil shale's long history of failure, in 2008 the Bureau of Land Management set royalty rates at five percent – less than half the rate set for oil and gas development on public lands.

"Our communities have to pay for the increased demands of development, including workforce housing, safety enforcement, health care and wear and tear on roads. We can't do that if royalty rates are set at bargain basement prices," said Jim Spehar, former Colorado Municipal League President who has served as both Mayor and City Council member in Grand Junction and Mesa County Commissioner.

Oil shale today is often confused with shale oil or shale gas, which are commercially viable. To clarify, oil shale is not "shale oil," but a rock that must be superheated for up to several years then refined into a fuel. Oil shale has never been a viable commercial product.

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