This June 25, 2008 photo shows an aerial view just north of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, where the world’s largest oil companies are building massive open pit mines to get at the oil sands. Plans have been made to strip and excavate an area in northern Alberta that’s the size of New York state. The region could yield as much as 175 billion barrels of oil. Daily production of 1.2 million barrels from the oil sands is expected to nearly triple to 3.5 million barrels in 2020. Overall, Alberta has more oil than Venezuela, Russia or Iran. Only Saudi Arabia has more. (AP Photo/Eamon Mac Mahon)
SALT LAKE CITY – Beneath the lush, green hills of eastern Utah’s Uinta Basin, where elk, bear and bison outnumber people, the soil is saturated with a sticky tar that may soon provide a new domestic source of petroleum for the United States. It would be a first-of-its kind project in the country that some fear could be a slippery slope toward widespread wilderness destruction.
With crude prices surging beyond $100 a barrel, and politicians preaching the need to reduce America’s reliance on foreign supplies, companies are now looking for more local sources. One Canadian firm says it’s found it in the tar sands of Utah’s Book Cliffs.
Alberta-based Earth Energy Resources Inc. aims to start with a roughly 62-acre mine here to produce bitumen, a tar-like form of petroleum, from oil-soaked sands. For decades, other Utah operators have used oil sands as a poor-man’s asphalt, and Canada has been wringing oil from the ground for years, but nobody has yet tried to produce petroleum from U.S. soil on such a scale.
And it could be just the beginning. The company has over 7,800 acres of Utah state land under lease, with plans to acquire more, and estimates its current holdings contain more than 250 million barrels of recoverable oil.
“This is not just a 62-acre project that will last seven years. We are looking at a 30,000-acre project that will destroy the environment in this area over many years,” said John Weisheit, a Colorado River guide and founder of the Moab, Utah-based environmental group Living Rivers.
Weisheit worries that shortsightedness and the rush to feed America’s insatiable appetite for oil could trump reason at the expense of other precious natural resources.
The Bureau of Land Management says Utah has an estimated 12 to 19 billion barrels of oil buried in its tar sands, mostly in the eastern part of the state, though not all of that would be accessible.
Weisheit says if Earth Energy is allowed to mine the land, he fears others may not be far behind.
Alberta Premier tells U.S. that environmental toll from oilsands is a “myth”…
WASHINGTON – Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach asked American business leaders Wednesday not to buy into the “myth” that oilsands production comes at too high an environmental cost, saying attempts to curtail it “don’t make sense.”
But he faced disbelieving protesters at every turn on the first day of his trade visit to the United States, including about 35 environmentalists who passed out flyers to guests arriving at a Canadian embassy reception.
The Other side…
Lobbying U.S. Democrats
“If you don’t like the oil sands oil, what companies will do [in Canada] is build a bigger pipeline to the west coast and export it to China and India,” warned Nexen Energy lobbyist Dwain Lingenfelter, while attending the U.S. Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver in August 2008.
While Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is in Washington this week seeking to assure Americans that there are no environmental problems associated with dirty tar sands development, Canadian environmental organizations are going to court
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RightChange.com releases the second episode of “What Would Reagan Do?” Featuring host Michael Reagan taking a look at the issues of the day and how his father Ronald Reagan set the tone for strong American Leadership. This episode takes a look at Wisconsin and contrasts how Reagan dealt with unions and how the current Obama administration is reacting.