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Tarring and Caring

On October 24th, the Utah Water Quality Board (UWQB) approved the first ever tar sands mine on U.S. soil, giving a permit to U.S. Oil Sands, a company which specializes in tar sand mining, and despite its name, has its headquarters based in Alberta, Canada.

Incidentally, Alberta has been a hotspot for tar sand development and extraction, so it comes as no surprise a company from Alberta is involved in the U.S. tar sands industry and activities. The tar sands industry has made quite the name for itself in Alberta, wreaking havoc on the environment and people in surrounding areas.

In a 9-2 vote, the UWQB gave U.S. oil sands the green light to begin extracting bitumen—the heavy hydrocarbon compound contained in the sedimentary rocks in tar sands mines—located in the Uinta Basin in eastern Utah. The UWQB concluded there is no risk of groundwater pollution from tar sands extraction for the prospective mining project. Whether or not the UWQB is correct in their conclusion remains to be seen, but as the project moves forward, the consequences will become clear.

It is always beneficial for innovation to cross traditional boundaries, and Boston-based Next Step Living is an excellent example of innovation for energy efficiency. Next Step Energy has teamed up with the Framingham Jr. Flyers football team to promote not only the company, but also energy efficiency. Next Step Living offers energy assessments as part of its business model, and for every assessment completed using the Flyers’ referral link, the team earns $10 for whatever costs are associated with maintaining a football team.

According to Next Step Living CEO Geoff Chapin, the key to selling energy efficiency in the residential market isn’t fancy technology, sleek web applications, or colorful flyers. Instead, it is building trust within the community. The program is working, contributing to work in 20,000 homes, and the company has grown to over 400 employees, hiring for a wide range of skill and education levels.

There is no silver bullet for an increase in energy efficiency, but the innovation Next Step Living has shown is definitely a step toward a community which values efficiency over profit.

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