Other countries donít have the restrictions the United States has and Hatch and Hansen believe the natural resources here could help wean America off of foreign oil. ìBack in the 70s we were about 30 percent energy dependent, now we are closer to 70 percent,î said Hansen. ìWe started to develop tar sands back then but we caved. Canada wisely stayed with it.î Now the U.S. is importing from them.
Hansenís group is trying to develop oil shale from the former White River Mine about 30 miles outside of Vernal. But Congressman Mark Udall from Colorado got a moratorium on oil shale production that has put the brakes on their progress. Recovering oil shale is a slow process, so it wonít save the world overnight. But Hansen and Hatch agree that something must be done or things will spiral out of control.
ìWe need to develop our resources,î said Hatch. ìWith modern technology we can produce cleaner burning jet fuel, yet theyíve tied us up. We are being regulated to death.î
Locally, Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville, is steadily trying to push solutions for the energy crisis through the Legislature.
ìUtah is the breadbasket of energy,î said Barrus, who chairs the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Legislative Committee. ìWe have it all, from trillions of barrels in the form of oil shale, to wind and uranium.î
Barrus started his quest during the 2008 session. Recently he invited the international group, Copenhagen Consensus Center, to do a study and cost analysis on the feasibility of tapping into the stateís natural resources and the impact it would have on the environment and the consumer. Funding would come from outside sources and not from the Legislature. In addition to providing much needed oil and energy resources for the state and nation, Barrus predicts a large boost to funding for education.
ìThere are a great deal of these resources right on SITLA (School Institutional Trust Lands Administration) lands which could amount to $15 billion over 40 years.î
However, even if Barrus gets support on the state level, there are still hurdles to jump on the federal level with the moratorium currently in place against oil shale production and large quantities of resources in land protected by monument status.
Meanwhile Hatch has taken the lead on several measures to give incentives to alternative energy use such as natural gas stations for hybrid cars and wind and solar power.
ìIím all for developing every form of energy we can,î said Hatch. ìBut we canít ignore the fact that we still need fossil fuel. We need to grab the bull by the horns and develop our own resources.î
Hatch said he feels the worst for the poor in America who spend half their wages just to feed their families and get to work and back.
ìThe poor look to liberals to make laws,î he said. ìBut they are being sold out.î
Hansen said the best way to make change is at the polls. ìThe public is the final arbitrator. They should write letters to Congress. Weíre not going to give up on oil production yet ñ or you better get your roller skates out.î