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Recently I received the following email: “Please explain how energy from mountain top removal, fracking and tar sands makes America great.”
The email sent by someone named Greg used terms that represent three different energy sources: coal, natural gas and oil — and each have been big contributors to America’s progress and prosperity.
Mountain top removal is a coal-mining method. It is safer than underground mining because it virtually removes the risk of mine accidents. In fact, in the mountainous regions of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, this surface mining process allows for hospitals, housing developments, schools and shopping centers to be built — which brings much needed economic development and jobs. The area is filled with hills and valleys — but no place to create a community.
The coal provides, and has provided, America with low-cost, base-load electricity — which has given us a competitive edge in the global marketplace and unmatched personal progress. And, therefore, energy from mountain top removal makes America great.
Fracking — short for hydraulic fracturing — combined with the amazing technology of horizontal drilling, has brought America into a new era of energy abundance. Now, industries are expanding giving America a distinct advantage over the rest of the world. Before American ingenuity combined the technologies, shale gas was unreachable and worthless beneath the Earth’s surface. This economic miracle has been achieved without federal programs, subsidies, or mandated markets to favor the shale industry. It is a triumph of free enterprise over government planning.
Unlike the pariah Greg presumes fracking to be, it is responsible for this shale gas phenomenon.
How does Canadian tar sand make America great? It allows America to get oil from our friendly neighbor and reduces our need to import from OPEC. We then refine that oil into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel that fuels our transportation fleet — something that wind and solar power cannot do.
If you have ever walked on a California beach and stepped on a tar ball (created when the oil seeps out of the ground and is washed ashore mixed with sand), you have a clue what the tar sands are like. The naturally occurring tar sands are a layer in the earth (much like coal). This layer has raw crude oil mixed with the dirt/sands. I recall, while visiting, driving to the tar sands from the town where we stayed. As the elevation increased, I noticed that trees reached a certain height and then died. It was explained that as soon as the roots hit the bitumen (or tar) it kills the tree.
At the extraction site, the tar sands are bulldozed and dumped into giant trucks (much like surface coal mining). The tar and sand mixture is processed to separate the oil and the sand. The oil is now available for use and the clean sand is put back into the Earth — only now the trees can actually grow. The reclaimed land is teeming with wildlife that lives in the healthy forest the extraction process provides. With approval of the Keystone pipeline, America would be far less dependent on people who aim to do us harm and OPEC couldn’t cause the economic damage it did in 1973.
And that, Greg, is how tar sands can make America greater. Yes, mountain top removal — or coal; fracking — or natural gas; and tar sands — or oil, make America great.
Some people want to interfere with, restrict and hamper North America’s energy abundance — which will take away America’s ability to provide cheap and reliable power to her citizens and remove the ability to grow the economy and create wealth. Why would anyone want to do that?
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE).