Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Utah: Tar Sands, Oil Shale best left in the ground

Price too high: Weigh all costs of energy from oil shale, tar sands
Salt Lake Tribune Editorial // 01/01/2008 02:13:04 PM MST

It's obvious the Bush administration wants to go on record with the energy industry as having done everything it could to encourage development of oil deposits in the West, even those embedded in tar sands and shale, no matter the cost to the region's wild lands.
As George Bush's presidency winds down, his Bureau of Land Management is ramping up efforts to pave the way for commercial development of oil shale and tar sands, economically dubious enterprises and proven environment busters.
The BLM has identified more than 630,000 acres for oil shale projects and more than 431,000 acres for development of tar sands in Utah. No matter that there is no existing program under which the BLM can even offer leases, the Bush-controlled agency wants to grease the process for the future.
The lands - 1.9 million acres altogether in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming - are identified in a draft of an environmental study released in late December. All the tar sands earmarked for development are in Utah.
The acres on the list for eventual development include many already designated by the BLM as being of "wilderness quality." Many of the areas targeted, including the San Rafael Swell, White Canyon and places around the Dirty Devil River in eastern and southeastern Utah, should be protected from the ravages of such destructive energy development.
Getting the oil out of rocks is a process that exacts an extremely high price on the environment - with a relatively minimal effect on supply - and adds to greenhouse-gas emissions.
The feasibility of developing Utah tar sands as a significant source of oil is not great, and any such effort would require what amounts to an open-pit strip mine with a refinery.
Shale does not contain crude oil, but a substance called kerogen, a precursor to crude oil. Kerogen must be heated in an energy-intensive process to produce oil, either in the ground or after the shale is mined, usually by large-scale surface mining. Huge piles of toxic waste rock are produced. And the shale oil must be extensively refined.
Whether the process is a net energy gain is questionable. But the cost to Utah's wildlife habitat, water and air quality and recreation is not. Compared to producing oil from shale or tar sands, conventional oil drilling, as destructive as it is to delicate Western ecosystems, is relatively benign.
If we fully consider the real costs we'll leave tar sands and oil shale in the ground.


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