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Science and Innovations

Scientists Call for a Moratorium on Unconventional Oil

A group of scientists is calling for a moratorium on the development of tar sands and oil shale in North America. The Colorado River Basin contains the largest untapped deposits of oil shale in the world.

More than 100 scientists have asked policy leaders to consider the potential global impacts of developing tar sands and oil shale. They say the carbon-intensive extraction process is incompatible with limiting climate change.

Thomas Sisk, an ecology professor at Northern Arizona University, is one of the lead authors.

“We’re asking the governments of the U.S. and Canada to hit the pause button, so that we can take a deeper look and develop a more integrated, sound strategy for meeting our energy needs while we safeguard the future climate,” Sisk said.

The U.S. Congress has mandated the development of oil shale and tar sands to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. The Bureau of Land Management in recent years has opened about 800,000 acres of land in the Southwest for research and development by energy companies. There are currently no commercial operations on federal lands in the Colorado River Basin. 

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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