Call it tar wars.
Not long ago in a state far away from Washington - namely, Utah - developing tar sands was expected to help relieve dependence on foreign oil and bring a local economic boom.But President Bush did not include developing tar sands in his National Energy Plan this week and is proposing cuts in research in his budget affecting them. That upsets Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, the ranking Republican on the House Interior Subcommittee on Water, Power and Offshore Energy Resources.
"I have always believed that to end our addiction on foreign oil, a comprehensive program that includes both alternative energy sources (such as tar sands) and conservation would be required," Hansen said.
"In Utah alone, there are literally billions of barrels of oil locked away in tar sands. The technology to utilize this energy resource has been developed and needs only to be fine-tuned.
"But the proposed reduction of alternative energy resource research and development funds may mean this great resource will go unused," Hansen said.
Tar sands and oil shale were in the '70s and '80s expected to bring a boom to eastern Utah. In fact, the multimillion-dollar Jensen Unit of the Central Utah Project was built to supply water for the expected resulting burgeoning population.
But the boom never came because extracting oil from shale and tar sands was too expensive to compete with other types of oil production.
That even led the Utah delegation in 1989 to say the Jensen Unit was a multimillion-dollar mistake and unsuccessfully ask Congress to forgive most of the local debt on it because Uintah Basin residents make payments through water sales.
Hansen also said he was disappointed that the new energy strategy didn't deal more with coal (of which Utah also has large reserves) and energy conservation.
"Coal is another resource we have in abundance which could serve to reduce our nation's love affair with imported oil. The technology exists to create petroleum alternatives - from motor fuel to heating oil - but without proper encouragement and incentive, this too will go undeveloped."
He added, "The importance of conservation cannot be understated."
Hansen also said he will continue to support legislation proposed by the Republican Leadership Energy Task Force - to which he belongs - that called for development of alternative energy sources.
"This legislation is a comprehensive proposal, covering short-term needs through the development of conventional resources; long-term needs through the development of alternative energy sources - including nuclear; and development of a comprehensive energy program," Hansen said.