Bush plan for drilling hurts Utah

By By James Sewell

By James Sewell

On Jan. 20, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, thus ending what could be arguably the worst presidential tenure in the history of the country.

Of course, as many have pointed out, that still gives George W(orst president ever) Bush almost three months to wreak as much havoc as possible before turning in his keys and probably losing his cleaning deposit.

Since Bush isn’t known for being a faithful steward of the environment, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that his administration is moving quickly on the issue of opening up almost 360,000 acres in our scenic state to the poking, prodding and polluting activity of oil and gas companies. These companies are seeking, once again, to take advantage of the public trust to pillage and plunder the natural beauty of the West for private gain.

The math behind this proposal is so half-baked and illogical that it hardly bears repeating; however, my editor prefers hard facts and figures to eloquent prose, so here goes: Utah has 1.2 percent of proved oil reserves nationwide according to a 2001 geological survey by the Department of Natural Resources; for natural gas, the number skyrockets to 2.5 percent. Sure, there could be additional unproved and unknown reserves, but why do we insist on draining every last drop of oil, no matter where it is (ANWR, the Gulf Coast, priceless sandstone monuments, etc.) before we even think about the oil-less future toward which we are hurtling?

Drilling for oil and natural gas in these areas, near Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dinosaur National Monument, is not going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and gas, despite contrary claims by Kathleen Sgamma, director of government affairs for the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States.

“If you can’t develop oil and natural gas in this part of rural Utah, we might as well concede the United States has lost all interest in energy security,” Sgamma said.

This is preposterous hyperbole. If the United States was truly concerned about energy security, and evidence suggests not, we would be looking for ways to produce energy that don’t involve burning fossil fuels.

If Delicate Arch were shown to be sitting atop a huge reserve of oil or natural gas, shortsighted fools such as Sgamma and her associates wouldn’t think twice about wrecking the site and sucking up every last drop of revenue-generating fossil fuel. The profits from this pillaging would benefit only the energy companies, as well as permanently destroy the grandeur of these areas, whose beauty is better captured by Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and Ansel Adams than in this column.

Just imagine heading out to the desert for a few days to escape civilization, only to be greeted in Moab by oil derricks and other industrial accoutrements humming away and generating fantastic profits for energy companies, while the air and water are choked with pollution for everyone else’s enjoyment. Breathtaking, literally.

Luckily, there is some indication that President-elect Obama will attempt to undo the Bush administration’s decision, restoring the integrity of not only our energy security policies, but our environmental policies as well. Unlike oil, hope springs eternal.

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James Sewell