Oil Shale: As Much Energy as a Baked Potato2 min read


Today, Republicans in Washington D.C. held a hearing on increasing the amount of land dedicated to oil shale extraction. Oil shale is a rock that contains a waxy substance called kerogen. When kerogen is heated to extremely high temperatures, it releases a substance that can be turned into crude oil. As with so many things, however, the devil is in the details when it comes to oil shale.   

It takes a lot of rock to create oil shale. In fact, pound for pound, oil shale has about the same amount of energy as a baked potato. Given that, in many cases the amount of energy recovered from oil shale is less than the amount of energy used in the extraction process. If that wasn’t enough, the technology to develop oil shale is not commercially viable and could likely depend heavily on already scarce water in the West.   

So it’s with great concern that today’s hearing highlighted legislation that would give away millions of acres of public land for oil shale extraction and provide oil companies with more taxpayer subsidies. I hope that California’s voice on the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources – Central Valley Congressman Jim Costa – will stand strong against these attempts by House Republicans to sell off our country’s natural resources.

Congressman Costa represents an area that’s been hard hit by environmental challenges – from air pollution that is among the worst in the country to lead and contaminates in the water. The Central Valley knows firsthand the cost of dirty air and water – high asthma rates in our children and many health issues in pregnant women and the elderly.   

Given this, I hope that Congressman Costa will speak up on behalf of other communities that may suffer a similar fate if increased oil shale extraction is allowed.

After all, are we willing to sell our health, our children’s well-being, and clean air and water for a source of energy that’s worth as much as a baked potato?


Pablo Rodríguez is the Executive Director of Communities for a New California (CNC), a statewide civil rights advocacy organization. Prior to CNC, Pablo worked as a Public Policy Consultant as well as serving as Director of the Dolores Huerta Community Organizing Institute. Pablo is committed to achieving public policy that is socially, economically, and environmentally just for California’s families.


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