Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Magical thinking

Magical thinking
Salt Lake Tribune
Updated Feb 8, 2012

It’s appropriate that Gov. Gary Herbert, in attacking a federal proposal to restrict the amount of public land available for oil shale and tar sands mining, should accuse the Bureau of Land Management of waving a “bureaucratic magic wand.” Because all the proposed rule would do is cut back on the amount of land where people would be allowed to carry out some magical alchemy that no one yet knows how to do.

Talk about hocus-pocus.

The BLM posted its draft rule for public comment Friday. And Herbert had a lot of it. He denounced the Obama administration as “hostile” to energy development and labeled the proposal a “nonsensical, bass-ackwards, peekaboo policy.”


Clearly, Herbert is not the only Utahn, in or out of public office, who has dreams of turning some 1.9 million acres in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado to the development of shale and another 431,000 acres for the mining of so-called tar sands. In their imaginations, turning those minerals into some form of petroleum, which could be refined into gasoline, jet fuel and all those other valued hydrocarbons, would be an economic boon for the Intermountain West and a huge step toward American independence from unreliable foreign sources of oil.

But the proposed rule would still leave open for development some 462,000 acres for shale and 91,000 acres for tar sands. That’s a lot less than had been supposedly open for such projects before. But still an awful lot when you consider that the existing operations amount to precisely zero.

Even the most open-minded definition of the BLM’s charge to manage its publicly owned lands for “multiple uses” should recognize that shale and tar sand petroleum products are not likely to be a valid use any time soon.

The knowledge and techniques necessary to make profitable use of those deposits, without side effects that despoil the land, consume vast amounts of scarce water supplies or do other types of unacceptable damage, are now wholly hypothetical.

If someone produces proof that such a means of extraction has been developed, one that will do minimal damage to all land and none at all to sensitive, wilderness-quality areas or endangered species, that would be a different matter altogether. And the objections from Herbert, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop and others that the administration had stopped something that would otherwise really happen might be valid.

Until that happens, it is Herbert, not the BLM, who is engaged in magical thinking.


Oilsandstruth.org is not associated with any other web site or organization. Please contact us regarding the use of any materials on this site.

Tar Sands Photo Albums by Project

Discussion Points on a Moratorium

User login


Syndicate content