The1982 bust: A morality play

The1982 bust: A morality play

Exxon’s billion-dollar Colorado oil shale gamble revisited
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When the boom went bust on Black Sunday, May 2, 1982, panic seized the Western Slope. The First National Bank of Rifle went under. Depositors lined up around the block to try and retrieve their money.
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The massive oil shale industry was projected to bring 1.5 million people to the Western Slope. Environmental impacts could have been disastrous. This sign, on a county road in the Piceance Creek Basin of Rio Blanco County, gives some idea of the impact on wildlife.
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Most small towns in the Colorado River valley built new town halls and libraries during the oil shale boom. The Parachute Town Hall features a large chunk of oil shale from the rich mahogany formation.
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So many construction workers moved to Parachute during the oil shale boom that Battlement Mesa, the new town built in Garfield County, included trailer parks as well as executive homes on the golf course.
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Despite years of trying and two booms, one in the early 1920s and one in the early 1980s, no corporation has yet to extract oil from shale or kerogen and make it economically and environmentally viable. This is the experimental Union Oil Co.’s retort, which is designed to heat shale. Once shale is heated, however, it has “the popcorn effect” – it expands, and clogs pipes and hydraulic systems.
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A few oldtimers in Garfield County such as Bessie Lindauer, pictured here in her log cabin on Parachute Creek, refused large cash offers from multinational corporations for property and water rights.
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