Vail Daily letter: Tar sands are the enemy |

Vail Daily letter: Tar sands are the enemy

Canada’s tar sands, now being mined and refined with no regard for the future of the planet, are one of the dirtiest sources of fossil fuel. The U.S. should do everything in its power to retard their development and use as an energy source. President Obama is correct in vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline, which would spur tar sands use by enabling the raw material to be transported to Texas for refining.

There is overwhelming scientific consensus that the planet is warming at an alarming pace, and that the burning of fossil fuels is a leading cause. For the benefit of future generations, it is imperative that the world wean itself from fossil fuels. It stands to reason we should phase out the dirtiest fuels first, as we undertake this arduous transition to clean energy.

The residents of Colorado should be especially sensitive to the threat climate change poses, since the state is so dependent upon the winter snowpack for its water supply, and to fuel Colorado outdoor recreation industry year round.

In Claire Noble’s Valley Voices column supporting the pipeline and tar sands development, she opines that the U.S. should lessen its reliance on fossil fuels from unfriendly foreign nations by partnering up with Canada to use tar sands from the north. However, it is widely believed that most of the tar sands product will be shipped to markets overseas, having minimal impact on the U.S. import of oil.

Ms. Noble states that the U.S. should “start showing the Canucks the respect they deserve.” Lessening the development of tar sands by preventing Keystone XL would show the Canadian government just such respect. The leaders of the national and Alberta provincial governments are complicit in the destruction of hundreds of square miles of pristine, boreal forests in Alberta, all in the name of a short-term financial fix from tar sands exploitation.

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The author further laments the threat to industry and her beloved, petroleum jelly-based lip gloss if we run out of oil. When we transition off oil as a fuel, there will be plenty of it for more environmentally benign uses as a lubricant and an ingredient.

To Ms. Noble’s credit, she doesn’t parrot the Keystone XL proponents wildly inflated employment projections as an excuse to mine more tar sands. In fact, the pipeline will employ less than 50 permanent employees when operational.

A final note on tar sands: A by-product of the refining process is a toxic substance called petcoke. Ask the residents of Windsor, Ontario; Whiting, Ind.; or Chicago about the health hazards and nuisance of vast piles of petcoke — awaiting shipment to China. It is too dirty to be burned as fuel in the United States!

Nels Leutwiler


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