Murdoch to advise on Colorado oil shale venture

An oil shale firm that reportedly plans to test drilling technology in western Colorado early next year now has the benefit of Rupert Murdoch's business acumen.

News Corporation founder and CEO Rupert Murdoch has joined the “Strategic Advisory Board” of Genie Energy Corporation and will “advise management on strategic, financial, operational and public policy matters related to Genie's shale oil ventures,” including a “joint venture” “to develop oil shale on a federal leasehold in Northwestern Colorado,” according to a September 14 press release from IDT Corporation, Genie Energy's parent company.

Genie Energy, according to the press release, “is currently comprised of IDT's interests in IDT Energy, American Shale Oil, LLC (AMSO), and Israel Energy Initiatives (IEI).”

On August 31, the Associated Press reported that American Shale Oil -- "[o]ne of three companies with federal leases to research and develop oil shale in Colorado" -- “said it plans to start testing its technology early next year.” The AP noted that companies seeking to develop western Colorado's “abundant oil shale deposits” “are trying to find a way to economically extract the oil from shale, which requires heating it above ground after mining or in the ground,” and that "[c]rtics say developing oil shale would consume too much water and harm the environment."

An August 30 Grand Junction Daily Sentinel report on the American Shale Oil pilot test in Colorado noted that greenhouse gas emissions “continue to be one of the major concerns surrounding possible oil shale development.” From The Daily Sentinel:

Rio Blanco County Commissioner Ken Parsons said the oil shale resource is important to the entire country, but he thinks one of the greater challenges AMSO [American Shale Oil] might face is air quality, if its process requires burning natural gas upwind of wilderness areas.

AMSO hopes to be able to demonstrate through its testing that it will be able to meet air-pollution regulations. It also is researching carbon sequestration, the concept of putting carbon back into the ground as part of its process so it doesn't contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Such emissions continue to be one of the major concerns surrounding possible oil shale development. A recent literature review conducted for the Western Resource Advocates environmental group said oil shale development would result in a “significant release of greenhouse gases,” in part because of the low projected energy return on investment.

The review claims that studies show extracting oil from shale could require as much energy as is produced, when counting energy such as natural gas that may be generated as part of the process and used to help power it.

The September 14 IDT Corporation press release quoted Murdoch as saying: “I believe Genie Energy's technologies and vast shale oil licenses have real potential to spur a global, geo-political paradigm shift by moving a major portion of new oil production to America, Israel and other western-oriented democracies.”