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Interim President Jeff Ettinger inside Morrill Hall on Sept. 20, 2023. Ettinger gets deep with the Daily: “It’s bittersweet.”
Ettinger reflects on his presidency
Published April 22, 2024

Weaning ourselves off of “oil sands” with sustainable transportation


Everyone should know where their products originate. Unfortunately, I have discovered that many students do not know from where their oil is derived.

Recent work with the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group has enlightened me to the fact that both Minnesota and Wisconsin rely on Canada to feed their addictions to petroleum. Minnesota receives 80 percent of its oil from its northern neighbor, and Wisconsin 100 percent.

Buried deep under the surface of the pristine wilderness of Northern Alberta are oil-sands, a mixture of extremely heavy crude oil, sand, clay and water. This provides Canada with over 50 percent of its oil production. Because the âÄútar-sandsâÄù do not flow as quickly as conventional oil, it must be collected by strip mining or pumping huge amounts of steam, heated by natural gas, into the Earth.

This difficult and energy-intensive extraction process results in a low 4-1 energy return ratio. The mining creates toxic pools of waste. These âÄútailings pondsâÄù have killed wildlife, poisoned nearby rivers and harmed indigenous people downstream. Extracting this crude oil has cleared an area the size of Greece and continues to spread.

All the refineries in Minnesota use oil from the tar-sands and a pipeline travels directly to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. Public awareness of how this oil is extracted is vital. Students need to know what they are supporting when at the pump.

This environmentally destructive process has already spread to Utah, not far from Arches National Park. If we do not wean ourselves off this oil, it has the capability to expand further.

Sustainable transportation is one of the steps to achieving a Minnesota free of tar sands oil. It just so happens that Beautiful U Day is today and the events will focus on transportation. As gas prices rise, transportation will become more important than ever before.

At the events, students will learn how to commute sustainably and have a chance to purchase cheap used bicycles. The expo held on Northrop Plaza will consist of various showcases from organizations that support biking, walking, carpooling and public transit.

Beautiful U Day will be difficult to miss, so come gain some awareness on how to live sustainably and help Minnesota wean itself off the destructive oil sands.

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