Norton: Colorado key to energy independence |

Norton: Colorado key to energy independence

Donna Gray
Glenwood Springs correspondent

Western Colorado is poised to make a significant contribution to the nation’s energy independence, said Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, who spoke to a capacity crowd at the Energy Forum and Expo Friday in Grand Junction.

With alternative sources of energy such as renewables and unconventional resources, the United States can come to rely on its domestic sources.

In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush said there is a need for innovation in energy development, Norton said.

“Western Colorado is well suited for energy innovation,” she said.

Oil shale reserves in western Colorado are among the richest in the world.

“The question is whether it will be an economically viable venture,” said Norton, who is a former Colorado Attorney General.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 directs the Department of the Interior to lease Bureau of Land Management lands for oil shale research and development. It also directs BLM to have commercial leases in place by 2008, Norton said.

She also acknowledged the oil shale bust of the early 1980s in western Colorado that left many out of work and the local economy struggling.

“It will be critically important for all the people in the area to be involved (in the planning process). We want to be as transparent as possible and as inclusive as possible,” she said.

“Interior will commit substantial resources and increase permits for wind energy and renewables,” Norton said.

The BLM is currently at work on a programmatic environmental impact statement that will identify likely locations for wind farms.

“We don’t think it will take long to see the benefits” of wind power, she said.

The president has also committed to support research into biomass as an energy source. One avenue being explored by Interior, Norton said, is the use of wood chips, which could be produced during forest-thinning projects.

“We can use wood chips to generate electricity or for gasoline,” she said. “We anticipate much more of this taking place in the future.”