Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives.”

John Lennon

A question of priorities

As we consider the Utah Tar Sands project, we need to ask: What’s more important to us, clean water to see us through the coming times of scarcity in an arid and growing state with many thirsty neighbors, or seven hours’ worth of fuel?

Mordor Tar Sands

Annuit Coeptis? The Alberta Tar Sands project may make someone smile.

Long experience with similar developments has taught us one thing too well: We can’t have both.

Depicted above is what many see as a model of the future shape of this project: the Alberta Tar Sands, an area the size of Florida that is now an open sore on the face of the planet, oozing poisonous wastes (including lead, arsenic, cyanides and nickel) into the watershed and enormously multiplying the incidence of rare cancers among the indigenous residents downstream. We have taken the liberty, in this animation, of showing Alberta Tar Sands morphing into Mordor; this is of course a metaphor, but it probably seems far more like reality to those who have to live and die nearby.

According to the article cited in the opening paragraph:

The PR Springs mine, to be operated by Canadian-based Earth Energy Resources, would occupy 213 acres in Grand and Uintah Counties in Eastern Utah. The site is within the Colorado River watershed, which supports 30 million people across the region. Earth Energy Resources expects to produce 2,000 barrels of crude bitumen per day, 350 days per year for 7 years.

“This project has no real value or contribution to society,” said John Weisheit, Colorado Riverkeeper and Conservation Director of Living Rivers. “The total amount of oil produced by this mine over seven years of operation would cover just 7 hours of American oil demand — a tiny blip on the radar. However, it will take millennia to restore the watershed they are about to destroy.”

Tar sands, also called oil sands or heavy oil, produce one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet. On average, each barrel of tar sands oil generates three times the greenhouse gases as conventional fuel, consumes or contaminates two to four barrels of water, and exposes ground water to toxic pollutants such as arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel and cyanide. DOGM refused to consider the climate impacts of tar sands in the permitting process. Extraction of tar sands in Canada has already devastated an area the size of Florida.

Mordor is a fictitious place, but Alberta Tar Sands is not. And as the animation hints, neither is a good neighbor. Would you want to live downwind from Mordor? If not, you might also prefer not to be downstream from a Utah Tar Sands project: the kind of “energy independence” initiative that would make Sauron smile his work to see.

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