On a remote Utah ridge covered in sagebrush, pines and wild grasses, a Canadian company is about to embark on something never before done commercially in the United States: digging sticky, black, tar-soaked sand from the ground and extracting the petroleum: Book Cliffs of eastern Utah, about 165 miles from Salt Lake City.
The impending opening of the nation's first tar sands mine has become another front in the battle across the West between preservationists and the energy industry.
U.S. Oil Sands has invested nearly $100 million over the last decade to acquire rights to about 50 square miles, obtain permits and develop what it says is a brand-new, non-toxic method of separating out the oil with the use of an orange-peel extract similar to what's in citrus-scented household soaps and detergents.
Protesters have tried to thwart the mine's construction for two summers in a row and have gotten arrested for chaining themselves to equipment. They argue that the project is an eyesore and that it could contaminate nearby springs and ruin habitat for deer, beaver and bears.
The mine sits on a cleared swath of land enclosed by barbed wire, with modular buildings, bulldozers, large metal posts and rails and a massive metal cylinder with a cone-shaped bottom where the tar sand mixing will be done.
Opponents also worry the mine will spur more projects in this pristine area that attracts hikers, campers and hunters. A 45-mile, $86 million highway as smooth as an autobahn has been built out to the mine. And the state has given approval for three other tar sands operations in the same corner of Utah. (About $2 million/mile.)
Instead of relying on the usual industrial-strength hydrocarbon solvent, U.S. Oil Sands says it will employ the biodegradable citrus extract that is in grease-cutting household products.
Much more at the link.
The other day I got off on a tangent, world-class cities. I've been in Tokyo so I can talk first-hand of that experience, and Tokyo is a world-class city. Tonight I happened to watch James Bond Skyfall again and saw Shanghai. Both in the movie and in the "extras" one can see exactly what I mean by a "world-class" city."