MINING: Shift to Shale

Potentially, shale oil is a fabulous fuel. It requires no costly hit-or-miss exploration, no ocean rigs, no precarious negotiations with foreign governments. Instead, it is a U.S. resource, locked in immense quantities—estimates range from 600 billion to 3 trillion bbl. — in rock formations throughout the semi-arid Rocky Mountain states. But no major shale-oil development could begin until the Federal Government, which owns between 70% and 80% of the oil-bearing lands, decided to lease out its deposits. That decision, in turn, depended mostly on how serious the environmental effects of mining would be.

Last week, after studying...

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