Vail-area Rep. Polis leads charge to reject oil shale subsidies in U.S. House

Use of funds for deficit reduction approved by one vote

By Scot Kersgaard
The Colorado IndependentJune 7, 2012
Colorado U.S. Rep. Jared Polis' amendment to strip $25 million in subsidies for oil shale passed the House Wednesday on a 208-207 vote. The money will be redirected to deficit reduction.

The measure failed earlier in the day by a 192-222 vote but went to a second vote when a member whose vote hadn't been counted asked for a new vote, a source told The Colorado Independent.

All of the Republican members of the Colorado delegation voted against the amendment, and to fund oil shale, while all three Democratic members voted to strip the funding.

Shell in-situ oil shale research project in Colorado's Rio Blanco County (USGS photo).

“We shouldn't be throwing good money after bad on oil shale research that won't produce energy for the foreseeable future,” said Polis. “Dumping another $25 million of taxpayer money into oil shale research makes no sense when there isn't commercially viable technology that will turn it into oil and many energy companies consider it such a low priority.”

“Even the Republican-controlled House agreed that new taxpayer subsidies for oil shale are a ludicrous use of taxpayer dollars.

“Kudos to Rep. Jared Polis and [cosponsor] Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., for bringing together bipartisan support to strike down new subsidies to the failed energy source that is oil shale," said Matt Garrington, co-director, Checks and Balances Project.

Republican Robert Blaha, running for Congress in Colorado's 5th District against incumbent Doug Lamborn, said by email, "We must have a policy that moves America toward energy independence and away from foreign oil addiction. I support a multifaceted policy to develop energy resources in the United States – utilizing solar, wind and hydropower, as well as biofuels, nuclear, coal, and natural gas and oil.

"Although there is a balance between protecting the environment and exploration and production, it is important that we create policy that moves us toward developing our own resources. However, I would never have voted to subsidize traditional energy extraction. The federal government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. I am glad the Congressman [Lamborn] has finally come around to the same opinion; it must have been a politically expedient flip flop."

Lamborn, though, voted against the amendment, or in favor of continuing to fund the oil shale industry. Blaha's comments were made before the tally was released.

Lamborn earlier this year spoke on the House floor in opposition to oil shale subsidies, but had supported such subsidies in the past and did so again today. Lamborn's office did not quickly return a call seeking comment.

Jason Christensen, campaign manager for David Anderson, who is running against Lamborn as an independent, said Anderson was also opposed to subsidizing the oil industry.

"With any venture there is risk and reward. I don't see where the government should be mitigating private industry's risk by shelling out $25 million, especially with the budget constraints we have," Christensen said.

"Oil companies have done very well for themselves and there is no reason for the government to subsidize them, but there are deeper issues than that. Water is a major concern to Westerners and I would like to think that Congressman Lamborn would take those concerns as seriously as he does the profits of the oil industry. This $25 million will only increase oil companies profits."

Polis floor statement can be viewed here:

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