How the West Was Lost… Tar Sands Oil Catastrophe Coming to Utah

Dylan Charles, Editor
Waking Times

The iconic landscapes of Utah and the American West are among the most breath-taking natural landscapes on planet earth, home to abundant wildlife and a source of life and inspiration for many people.

In the Northwest Territories of Canada’s wilderness, over 50 years of oil shale mining have turned enormous tracts of land into lunar-like toxic wastelands, sickening surrounding populations and polluting the entire food chain in areas that have been wild and pristine since the beginning of time. No longer is the land able to support life and there is no possible way to reverse or repair the ecological damage. It will never again be productive. To those who live there and depend on the land for life, it is an exceptionally costly means of supplying energy to the global market.

  • Now, Eastern Utah, and the breath-taking water sheds along the Green River Formation in Utah’s wilds are being sacrificed for the production of tar sands bitumen and oil shale:

    “Last March, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved more than 800,000 acres for tar sands and oil shale development over a vast stretch of land in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado known as the Green River Formation…

    These lands may hold more recoverable oil than has been used so far in human history — 3 trillion barrels, according to a U.S. government report.” [Esquire]

    The Salt Lake Tribune also reports that potential oil reserves in the this area of the United States are staggering, perhaps topping the vast reserves of even Saudi Arabia:

    “Nearly three-fourths of the world’s kerogen-bearing shales occurs in the United States. Most of it is in the Green River Formation under northeastern Utah and neighboring territory in Wyoming and Colorado, deposited during the Eocene when vast lakes covered the region. Algae settled to the lake beds, blended with sediments, and transformed into kerogen, an “immature” hydrocarbon that becomes oil when heated.

    The federal government estimates these deposits represent more than 4 trillion barrels of oil and about 800 billion are technically recoverable — more than triple Saudi reserves.”

    With this much potential oil at play here and recent advances in technology that no allow hydrocarbons to be extracted from tar sands bitumen and oil shale, it is likely to take a Herculean effort to prevent these areas from being strip-mined and polluted into oblivion with the scorched earth methods being used in Canada. lists some of the primary issues and risks surrounding a major development sought after by Enefit, an Estonian government owned oil shale development company seeking to develop a huge production site in the Green River Formation:

    Human Health Violations:

    • Oil shale requires massive amounts of water, and in the west, we don’t have water rights to give away. The Colorado is the most endangered river in America.
    • Water rights would have to be seized from farmers and communities.
    • The Colorado would likely become polluted with dangerous compounds that seep into the watershed.
    • Toxic substances would be carried by pipes, threatening our water sources and farmland.

    Devastation of Our Wilderness Heritage:

    • Oil shale mining would utterly devastate huge tracts of wilderness. Hundreds of thousands of acres of BLM and state lands are at risk.
    • This would jeopardize the livelihoods of people in communities throughout south and eastern Utah who rely on tourism for their regional economy.

    A History of Failure:

    • Oil shale has a hundred-year track record of failure in the U.S. It has never come close to becoming commercially viable.
    • Oil shale is an entirely different resource from shale oil and shale gas, which are pockets of oil or gas trapped within shale rock. Oil shale is not even oil—the word “oil” is a misnomer. It’s an “immature precursor to oil and gas,” as the Colorado School of Mines says.
    • This low-grade, waxy material, called kerogen, requires energy-intensive upgrading to turn it into fuel.
    • Enefit [the company involved in the developments in Utah] only produces energy used for electricity in Estonia, not transportation fuel. Enefit must create an entirely new technology to mine oil shale in Utah—and experts from Estonia say commercial production would not be feasible for at least several decades out, if ever.
    • “The test results are not promising,” the company said in an internal document.
    • A wave of bad press in Estonia is barraging Enefit’s plans in Utah, saying it requires tremendous governmental subsidies to even make it viable—just like oil shale mining in Estonia. Enefit’s foolhardy attempt to make oil shale viable would devastate our lands and health, and we refuse to bear the financial and human health expenses.

    In opposition to the momentum of the corporate/government rush to strip mine tar sands bitumen and oil shale from this beautiful part of the United States, a growing popular movement to expose, stall, and stop these developments is underway, as nature lovers, local residents, and activists are stepping up to spread awareness about the truth of these costly projects.

    In an effort to raise public awareness about impending tar sands strip mining along the Green River in Eastern Utah, Rebel Grove Productions has produced the documentary film, Last Rush for the Wild West – Tar Sands, Oil Shale and the American Frontier. Jennifer Ekstrom of Rebel Groove writes:

    “It’s the most polluting, destructive, expensive and inefficient way to extract oil from the earth. And Utah has rolled out the red carpet for this industry to come to the United States for the very first time.

    Tar Sands and Oil Shale mining would put the Colorado River watershed, which 30 million people rely on, at risk of being contaminated and dewatered. Vast landscapes would be destroyed. Air quality in Salt Lake City would be further impaired. Climate disruption would escalate.

    The approval of this first United States strip mine was granted despite evidence of catastrophic effects on health, families, water and forests, caused by Tar Sands strip mining in Alberta. And despite the reality that American taxpayers would essentially be hiring wealthy foreign corporations to do it.

    First on deck to be strip mined is beautiful PR Springs in eastern Utah. U.S. Oil Sands (a Canadian company), having received approval from Utah’s agencies, is looking for investors in order to get started. And the only thing getting in their way is a resolute contingent of local activists, attorneys and citizens.”

  • About the Author

    Dylan Charles is the editor of Waking Times and co-host of Redesigning Reality, both dedicated to ideas of personal transformation, societal awakening, and planetary renewal. His personal journey is deeply inspired by shamanic plant medicines and the arts of Kung Fu, Qi Gong and Yoga. After seven years of living in Costa Rica, he now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and enjoys spending time with family. He has written hundreds of articles, reaching and inspiring millions of people around the world.


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