Just like you should mistrust any company with the word “Freedom” or “Patriot” in its name, don’t assume that a company named “U.S. Oil Sands” is based in the USA.
To be fair to truth-in-advertising advocates, of course, the second part of the name is accurate. This Canadian firm just got a permit to pull two thousand barrels of oil out of tar sands reserves in Utah.
Naturally, the process is hugely demanding of energy and water.
Dig up the tar sands, crush them, add lots of hot water, remove the tailings, aerate the mixture to create the attractively named “bitumen froth,” put it through another process to take all the air back out again, treat the whole thing with a solvent to make the sludgy stuff sufficiently liquid to flow through a pipeline.
All the waste produced over this process will kept in “tailings ponds.” Here’s a picture of a tailings pond:
The Utah Water Quality Board gave the company a permit even though there’s a water crisis currently happening in the whole Southwest, and there are many very good reasons to think that tar sands extraction is a vile and awful process that should never be allowed on planet Earth.
According to a press release on the U.S. Oil Sands website, the company managed to obtain $81 million in financing in October 2013, and says the project is “fully funded.” U.S. Oil Sands makes this claim even though a March 2013 Record of Decision by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management cautioned investors that “this resource is not, at present, a proven commercially viable energy source.”
Additionally, as part of its PR offensive, U.S. Oil Sands is touting that the project will create 75 to 100 high-paying, steady jobs. But given the destruction inherent in tar sands mining, not to mention the climate impacts of this dirty oil, many are likely to view this corporate pitch of several dozen jobs as offensive on its face.
Further, excessive water usage in a drought-stricken west is another concern that citizens have with the project.
A letter written by the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining said, “It is expected that the mine will use 116 gallons of water per minute on a 24-hour basis, which equates to approximately 180 acre-feet per year” and that a production rate of 2,000 barrels of crude a day will consume approximately 4,000 barrels of water per day.
There is a commendable grass-roots organization with lots of people who are working to block this project. Utah Tar Sands Resistance disrupted a shareholders’ meeting in May of last year, and recently brought children to the site of the proposed operation, where they spoke out against these destructive practices:
If you’re moved to donate, here’s a link.
Peaceful Uprising, founded by “Bidder 70” climate hero Tim DeChristopher, has carried out direct action to block construction.
And if you’re moved to donate, here’s a link for that.
A third organization working on all our behalf is Before It Starts, which has been working hard to bring this environmental disaster to public attention with teach-ins and workshops — and most notably, a “Tar Sands Roadshow” explaining the nature of the tar sands extraction and how it impacts ecosystems and communities in the area.
Needless to say, they can use any support you might give.