Ritter talks up clean energy at peak-oil confab, takes heat from shale lovers

Even as Gov. Bill Ritter was touting Colorado’s “New Energy Economy” at the 5th annual Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas-USA conference in Denver Tuesday evening, he was being blasted from the right for his gas-guzzling aeronautical habits and failure to promote the state’s oil shale production.

The ASPO-USA meeting of energy industry observers who say the world is nearing peak-oil production and soon will not be able to meet ever-growing demand was the perfect forum for Ritter to talk up his aggressive agenda of enticing renewable energy companies to the state and promoting clean energy research in state colleges and universities.

But debunkers of the peak-oil theory say it’s at least 40 to 100 years away, especially given technological advances that will make squeezing oil from shale sand and rock in western Colorado and other parts of the Rocky Mountain West more economically viable.

Critics of oil shale production, however, say it’s way too environmentally destructive, consumes far too much water, and ultimately does nothing to address global climate change. Billions in oil-shale research, especially given a recent Justice Department probe of former Bush administration Interior Secretary Gale Norton, would be better spent on renewable energy development, critics claim.

Proponents of expanding fossil-fuel production into largely untapped and unproven arenas such as oil shale often dismiss renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydro and biomass as technologically too far behind to significantly reduce traditional fuel consumption.

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