Utah Tar Sands: The Path to Oil Independence?

2007 Ford Shelby GT500 KR

Gotta keep the beast fed with cheap gas...

A word of warning to our friends in Norway, Australia and the UK: I’m going to complain about cheap gas.

To you, $4 per gallon is cheap, I know. Last I checked prices in Oslo, Norway, I was floored to discover a staggering $9.28 per gallon. Ouch.

For those of us in the U.S., though, four dollars remains the freak-out-inducing number that throws suburban commuters into a panic. At my local station, the price of the 92-octane stuff has eclipsed $4, with 87-octane hot on its heels.

To make prices go down, in theory, we need one of two things to happen: Use a lot less gas, or produce a helluva lot more.

One company thinks it may have a piece of the answer, in the form of tar-soaked sand in Utah.

To quote from the opening paragraph of an AP news story:

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.

I’m already sold. It gets even better later in the story, when Earth Energy Resources Inc., the Canadian company that leases the land, said it estimates there are 250 million barrels of recoverable oil just under the surface.

Since America will be stuck on oil for the next generation, at least, we might as well find and exploit all the domestic resources we can to decrease our reliance on the foreign stuff.

The future landscape of Utah?

Environmentalists are in a bit of a tizzy over the proposal, whining about the destruction of the land, increased greenhouse gases and the like. On the other hand, company officials promise not to pollute, to comply with all regulations, and to eventually leave sand in the area “as clean as beach sand.”

Here’s the way I see it:

There’s a resource we need in the sands of Utah that we might as well extract. Yeah, it would probably change the landscape of the area for a while and might generate some greenhouse gases in the process, but that’s the price we have to pay for oil. Someday technology will evolve and we won’t need oil anymore (or we’ll just run out of it), but in the meantime we might as well keep it local.

If it’s pure, unspoiled land you’re after, try going on a road trip through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska. Trust me, there’s plenty out there, so sacrificing a few thousand acres in Utah for 250 million barrels of oil seems like a nice trade!

I say go get the oil in Utah. Do you?


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  1. As I said, Oil has to be expensive for this source to compete. You’re not going to see $2.39/gallon gas from oil shale or tar sand, but if we can buy less $100/barrel oil from the Arabs, it’s a good thing. At least the extra money spent is providing jobs and generating taxes here.

    Another incentive to shift to more domestic sources for oil is to levy a tax on imported oil. Use the tax revenues to provide incentives to buy fuel-efficient cars to replace older vehicles, like the cash for clunkers program but targeted specifically for fuel economy. Add to that an extension and enlargement of the gas guzzler tax to target vehicles that waste fuel– Like that 100-pound blonde that roared past you in a Ford Expedition to pick up her little kit at school. The defect in the gas guzzler tax is that it is only levied once, but it would be alot more effective if people driving gas guzzlers had to pay a penalty every year to keep the vehicle registered.

  2. Rarely agree with tgriffith but this time he’s got it right. Agree with all posters above as well, as they all tell it like it is. Like it or not, our air and water quality will suffer and we will have to pay a little more but at least we will leave our kids a legacy that they can improve on. Now if we could only get the old guy on our side, we would have something you seldom see here…………..a consensus.

  3. @ Randy
    From what I’ve read, oil from tar sands isn’t worth the effort unless oil is over $60 per barrel. Seems we’re way above that!

  4. They’ve been talking about shale oil and tar sand recovery since the 1970’s but the plain fact has always been that you can’t economically recover this oil unless oil prices are very high. Because of the recovery costs, oil produced from this source will be expensive so alas, it’s isn’t going to produce cheap gas to allow Americal to continue to be the energy gluton of the world.
    We use far more than our fair share and American needs to get used to a future where every day isn’t puntuated with the squandering of dwindling resources. If we don’t we’ll become the next species to become extinct.

  5. I live in those Uinta mountains and have spent my entire life driving and camping all over in them and I hear about all of the environmentalists who complain about how we are ruining the land, and I can tell you how easy it would be to disappear in this area and walk for months and not see a single person. There is plenty of land still here. A few thousand acres less would not even make a dent in this one region. And if it can lower my 500 dollar a month commuting gas expense, I have a few extra rooms the workers can live in while they do it.

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