Sierra Club Conservation Policies
Oil Shales and Synthetic Fuels
- The Sierra Club opposes any general program to lease federal oil shale reserves for
production purposes until research is completed showing that environmental problems can be
and will be solved or at least reduced to reasonable acceptable levels.
- It also opposes a major prototype program that really amounts to beginning a broadscale
production in advance of adequate answers from research or solutions to environmental
problems. It favors a research program of modest dimensions that would emphasize the least
environmentally damaging methods of development.
- Federal and private research and any prototype program should seek answers to the
following: a. Ways to avoid adverse impacts on surface resources, including wildlife
habitat, forage, native ground cover, wilderness and scenic values; b. Feasibility and
practicability of reclaiming areas subjected to unavoidable surface disturbance; c. Means
of disposing of spent shale tailing to avoid surface storage; d. Ways of preventing
contamination of surface and underground water; a particular concern is the increase in
salinity of the water and the release of harmful hydrocarbons to percolating water; e.
Ways of minimizing the consumptive use of water; f. Ways to assure the maintenance of air
quality; and g. Ways of assuring that adverse social and economic impacts are minimized.
Adopted by the Board of Directors, August 31-September 2, 1974
Synthetic Fuels and Alternatives
The Sierra Club believes the rapid approach of the post-petroleum age requires sober
evaluation of environmental, economic, technological and social problems that must be
worked through to arrive at the point where renewable energy resources will sustain us.
We believe no energy fuel or system is entirely without adverse environmental effects,
but certainly some have enormous disadvantages, sufficient to make them the last
alternative the United States or the world in general should consider or accept.
Specifically, the Sierra Club believes that the infant and largely unproven technologies
for oil shale development, coal liquefaction and some of the various other
"synfuel" alternatives should be avoided. They are environmentally extremely
dangerous, economically unsupportable, will greatly disrupt our economy, and give the
unfortunate and misleading impression that current wasteful energy consumption can
Further, we believe that energy conservation provides one of the cleanest and most
expeditious means of avoiding the present known adverse consequences of those technologies
and those adverse consequences that can easily be predicted for new alternatives seriously
being considered for the future.
[Note: The last three paragraphs of this policy are omitted here and are instead listed
with the policies on energy conservation and energy alternatives.]
Adopted by the Board of Directors, July 21, 1979